The Yellow Wallpaper: Women in the Nineteenth Century

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is not only an entertaining short story, but also gives a glimpse into the world of women at the end of the nineteenth century.  Women had no rights in society or in the home.  The Victorian Age, which is named after a powerful woman, was a time where they were oppressed.  They were merely the possessions of their husbands or fathers.  The Yellow Wallpaper is a perfect example of a woman who is possessed by her husband, and feels as if she is a caged animal who has no way of escape.John, the husband of the narrator, is a physician and his wife is suffering from “but temporary nervous depression — a slight hysterical tendency.” (Gilman) Because of this illness, she is not to leave the rented summer home or do any work, including writing.  On the surface, it seems that an idle life would be one that would be nice, but instead, the narrator’s every move is monitored by either her husband of his sister.  She is secretly keeping a journal in defiance and to give her an outlet for her frustrations.  The summer home her husband has provided for them has a yellow wallpaper that repulses her.  The pattern is formless and irritates the narrator enough that she cannot help but look at it for long periods of time.The narrator starts to see sub-patterns in the wallpaper that are symbolic of her own life.  The more she looks at it, she begins to see women who are creeping about.  Once she sees this sub-pattern, she then realizes that the women are in cages like animals.  This is the life that the narrator is living.  She is well cared for in the material sense, but she is totally controlled by her husband as were all women of the late eighteenth century.Works CitedGilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wallpaper.