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Kipper Hawkins

Mr. T
English 1301.27
December 3rd, 2016
The Yellow Wallpaper and Feminism
The feeling experienced by many children trying to give an opinion on something is that
of disregard. What they say does not matter, and their thoughts are not wanted. That feeling is
exactly what Charlotte Perkins captured in her short story, The Yellow Wallpaper, written in
eighteen ninety-two. It fits into a realistic fiction, as it tells about a woman whose husband and
brother fail to hear her cries for help and force her to live away from society. She requests
several times for her husband to take her away back to their old house, but he insists that he is
right and knows best. This, combined with the terrible, yellow wallpaper the story is named after,
she is eventually driven to the point of insanity. The idea behind it was representative of a bigger
issue, a theme, and that theme was the oppression of women. What women said during those
times did not matter, they would not be able to vote for another thirty years. So why would
anyone listen to what they had to say? There are many symbols throughout the story that point to
womens rights and social status in the late eighteen hundreds. Charlotte Perkins uses the Yellow
Wallpaper, the woman in the wall, and the creeping to symbolize patriarchal oppression of
In the story the protagonist, whose name is not expressly stated, speaks many times about
the wallpaper being representative of holding something back: The faint figure behind seemed
to shake the pattern, just as if she wanted to get out (Perkins 8). The wallpaper, then, symbolizes
the male stronghold on womens rights. They could not go anywhere or do anything without

having consent from their husbands or fathers. Without the right to vote, hold political office, or
even leave their house, women in that time were completely at the mercy of the men. Many saw
it as an imprisonment, which the wallpaper represents, by moonlight, it becomes bars! (9). One
of the only ways to escape the imprisonment was writing and, thus, defying the patriarchal hold
over women, If the narrator can free herself through writing and interpretation, so too can US
academic feminists engaged in similar tasks (Nadkami 2). Something else is represented in the
wallpaper, though.
The shadowy figure, or woman in the wallpaper as she comes to be called by the
narrator, is lurking behind the wallpaper. She starts out as a strange, provoking, formless sort of
figure (Perkins 5), and eventually becomes a clearer, more obvious female figure, and the
woman behind it is as plain as can be (10). This woman represents all of the woman who are
oppressed by the patriarchy, as the woman is oppressed and trapped by the bars of the
wallpaper. The formation of the woman and her increasing clarity are representative of the
deteriorating mental state of the narrator. As she is struggling harder and harder, she finally
breaks free. This furthers the idea that the woman represents women being held by the
oppressive society they lived in, and the narrators mental escape from her husband is
represented by the woman breaking free. There was a consequence to her breaking free from the
wallpaper, however.
The woman eventually began to creep around the room and the roads and hedges outside
of the house. Their creeping representative of women who dared leave their own homes after
curfew, or without permission, but had to travel in the dark alleys and byways. They could try to
express themselves through their actions, or they could try expression through writing, in which
they were normally ignored. Their stories, such as the Yellow Wallpaper, had very strong

feminist undertones and allusions, but they were less than mentioned by the men of their period:
even Howells had nothing to say about the provocative feminism of [Perkins] textHowells
notes the storys chilling horror, and then falls silent (Haney-Peritz 1). The creeping is just
another way Perkins explains how women were treated in the eighteen hundreds.
There are many themes present in The Yellow Wallpaper, as most stories have multiple,
but the oppression of women was the most prevalent. Women werent allowed to go where they
wanted, or say what they wanted, without the approval of a man. Perkins captures this perfectly
in her story. The oppression of society was represented in the wallpaper. The trapped feeling was
represented in the woman in the wallpaper. Women not being able to travel wherever they
wanted in the day was shown through the creeping of the women. These are merely insights into
the lives of women in a patriarchal society.

Works Cited
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wallpaper. New York: Feminist, 1973. Print.
Haney-Peritz, Janice. Monumental Feminism And Literatures Ancestral House: Another Look
At The Yellow Wallpaper. Womens Studies 12.2 (1986): 113-28. Web. 5 Dec 2016.
Nadkami, Asha. Reproducing Feminism In Jasmine And The Yellow Wallpaper. Feminist
Studies 38.1 (2012): 218-244. Web. 5 Dec. 2016.