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The symbolism and setting in the yellow wallpaper a short story by charlotte perkins gilman

A Twist on Conventional Symbols by Liselle Sant Reflecting their role in society, women in literature are often portrayed in a position that is dominated by men. Especially in the nineteenth century, women were repressed and controlled by their husbands as well as other male influences. In "The Yellow Wall-Paper," by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the protagonist is oppressed and represents the effect of the oppression of women in society.

This effect is created by the use of complex symbols such as the house, the window, and the wall-paper which facilitate her oppression as well as her self expression. It is customary to find the symbol of the house as representing a secure place for a woman's transformation and her release of self expression.

The Yellow Wallpaper

However, in this story, the house is not her own and she does not want to be in it. She declares it is "haunted," and that "there is something queer about it. In this way the house still is the cocoon for her transformation. It does not take the form of the traditional symbol of security for the domestic activities of a woman, but it does allow for and contain her metamorphosis.

The house also facilitates her release, accommodating her, her writing and her thoughts.

  • During his absences, Perkins left his wife and children with his relatives;
  • The bedroom being represented like a prison only further emphasises the gothic symbolism as well as a lack of freedom for the narrator, she is not even allowed to take the room that she wants downstairs;
  • In , having learned that she was suffering from inoperable cancer, Gilman took her life.

These two activities evolve because of the fact that she is kept in the house. One specific characteristic of the house that symbolizes not only her potential but also her trapped feeling is the window. Traditionally this symbol represents a view of possibilities, but now it also becomes a view to what she does not want to see.

Through it she sees all that she could be and everything that she could have. But she says near the end, "I don't like to look out of the windows even - there are so many of those creeping women, and they creep so fast.

Symbols and Motifs

She will still be controlled and be forced to stifle her self-expression. She will still be forced to creep. More immediate to facilitating her metamorphosis than the house itself is the room she is in and the characteristics of that room, the most important being the yellow wall-paper which also plays a double role: But it also sets her free.

She describes the wall-paper as being the worst thing she has ever seen: She cannot go out, because her husband has taken such control over her activities that all she can do is sit and watch this paper.

She also says in her first reference to it that, "I should hate it myself if I had to live in this room long. In this process she has begun her transformation, allowing herself to be completely drawn in to her fantasies and not being afraid of what is happening to her.

John, her husband, tells her to resist them, but she does not.

  • The defiance she comes to feel has finally been shed in favor of outright rebellion, yet what would have been more obvious rebellion harming the baby or John, running away, destroying things important to the household instead of just the horrible wallpaper does not occur;
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  • He says that with my imaginative power and habit of story-making, a nervous weakness like mine is sure to lead to all manner of excited fancies, and that I ought to use my will and good sense to check the tendency;
  • Else spends her days upstairs in this airy attic, or strolling around the gardens trying to get better;
  • She will still be controlled and be forced to stifle her self-expression.

Her awareness of the changes in her and her efforts to foster them and see them through to an end demonstrate a bravery that is not often acknowledged in women.

She is going mad; this is the mad woman in the attic, but she is not scared. She also realizes, finally, that the image in the wall-paper is not another woman; it is herself as well as all women in general and therefore all the women trapped by society.

Symbolism of the Setting of “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman Essay

These complex symbols used in "The Yellow Wall-Paper" create Gilman's portrayal of the oppression of women in the nineteenth century. Her twist on traditional symbols that usually provide a sense of security and safety adds to this woman's own oppression, contribute to the trapped feeling.

The use of symbols in the yellow wallpaper by charlotte perkins gilman

Gilman pushes this to the limit by taking those characteristics closely associated with women and uses them against the narrator, to assist in her own oppression.