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REFLECTION OF CHARLOTTE PERKINS GILMAN

Yanin Budhijalananda (Pete)

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1203

7/12/16
Reflection of Charlotte Perkins Gilman in The Yellow Wallpaper
When water continuing to drop on the rock, the rock is slowly eroded and become a
hole. Charlotte Perkins Gilman is the American writer, Feminist, and a mother. In 1884, she
got married for the first time with the artist, Charles Walter Stetson. The relationship was not
work well since they got divorced after she gave birth to their daughter. In 1900, she married
again with another man, her cousin, George Houghton Gilman after she wrote a story about a
woman in marriage life surrounding by the men who always tell her what to do or what is
best for her, neglecting her opinion. The action of her husband or men that surrounding her
act as water that slowly erodes her mind and turn into her bad experience. As a result, she
turns out to have mental breakdown. Therefore, Gilman expresses negative views of her
marriage experience and her bad experience with the doctor through the story The Yellow
Wallpaper.
Gillman portraits her pessimistic side on her marriage life by uses the narrator mind as
a mirror. The narrator of the story The Yellow Wallpaper is a married woman, who has her
own thoughts and ideas. However, her husband, John, seems to be the one who knows her
best. The narrator tells that he is a doctor and he spends most of the time working outside and
against her opinion, making her stays alone in the big house. The narrator keeps telling about
how her husband against her. For example she said, “I don’t like our room a bit. I wanted one
downstairs that opened on the pizza and had roses all over the window, and such pretty oldfashioned chintz hanging! But John would not hear for it” (p.1). This quote shows that the
author wants to complain about the right of the woman, the right to have their own voices.
Since, Gilman grew up among unhealthy relation of her parents. The person who raised her

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up was her mother, according to Boyd, “The mother behaves toward her daughter as she
internally acts toward the daughter part of herself. Similarly, Hammer (1976) suggests that a
mother, through her daughter, lives both her own childhood and her own mother's
identity”(p.292, 1989). Gilman has only one woman who is both mother and father for her.
This woman raises Gilman up by her own, making Gilman might looks at her mother as her
role model. She absorbs independence and toughness from her mother, Gilman developing
these into her idea of feminist that she usually expresses it through her well known literatures.
Along the story of the narrator we can see the similarity of the author’s life, the marriage tries
to change her from the leader of herself to be a follower of another man. She cannot do her
works or even give an opinion. She cannot be herself. She needs to become the players in her
husband games. However, when the narrator said “I’ve pulled of most of the paper, so you
can’t put me back” (p.9) we can interpret that Gilman reflects the idea of marriage life is
confining her. She empower herself to become independent again by deciding to break the
bond between she and her husband. She decides to come back and believes in her own
thoughts, according to Mary Beekman, “her marriage would put an end to her hopes of
having a career. On March 23, 1885, Charlotte gave birth to Katharine Beecher Stetson.
Motherhood consumed her time, subsuming her ambition. This caused her to sink into a
depression… she separated from Charles and eventually divorced him ”(n.d.). The Gilman is
back on her feet again.
Gilman illustrates her bad relationship with the medical doctor. In the beginning of
the story, it’s very obviously that the author talks about doctors by using her characters as
doctors. John the husbands is the doctor and the narrator’s brother is a doctor too. Gilman
being sarcastic to medical doctor by saying
“My brother is also a physician, and also of high standing, and he says the same thing.
So I take phosphates or phosphites—whichever it is, and tonics, and journeys, and air,

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and exercise, and am absolutely forbidden to “work” until I am well again. Personally,
I disagree with their ideas”(p.1).
Gilman shows that even the medical doctors, the expert in diagnose and find the cure for the
patients, they can be wrong in some occasion. During her marriage life with her husband, she
already suffered with the mental depression. So, she went to see the doctor to seek the
advices or the cure from the doctor. However, she receives the unexpected suggestion to stop
working or writing, according to Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1913),
“For many years I suffered from a severe and continuous nervous breakdown tending
to melancholia ññ and beyond. During about the third year of this trouble I went, in
devout faith and some faint stir of hope, to a noted specialist in nervous diseases, the
best known in the country. This wise man put me to bed and applied the rest cure, to
which a still-good physique responded so promptly that he concluded there was
nothing much the matter with me, and sent me home with solemn advice to “live as
domestic life as far as possible,” to “have but two hours’ intellectual life a day,” and
“never to touch pen, or pencil again” as long as I lived. This was in 1887. I went
home and obeyed those directions for some three months, and came so near the
borderline of utter mental ruin that I could see over”.
Gilman is a writer, independence and a feminist who uses her pen to write or announce her
rights so rights hold the great significance for her. When the doctor forbid her to write or do
her work, it’s like when she forced to be silence or decreased her rights, which she cannot
accept that, but after she forced herself to try to follow doctor’s suggestion of rest cure for
about three months she became more mad. As a result, she didn’t found the way to make her
feel better, by the suggestion so she beginning to do things that she good at again. She
decided to write again and what subject to write about is better than argue with the cure or
suggestion of a male doctor that she likes to oppose since it against her willing and makes she

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feel more depression. In addition, Gilman also said “It is the strangest wall-paper! It makes
me think of all the yellow things I ever saw—not beautiful ones… It creeps all over the
house”(p.6). Gilman compares her depression to the yellow wallpaper, according to Treichler,
“The more the wallpaper comes alive, the less inclined is the narrator to write in her journal“dead paper.” Now with three weeks left of the summer and her relationship with the
wallpaper more and more intense”(1984, p.63). Since, the doctor in her real life and the
husband in the story suggested that she shouldn’t do the writing works and should take the
rest cure. Even though, it against her feeling, but she does it anyway. When she took the cure,
there is no other attraction to help her avoiding the depression. This makes her surrounded by
the yellow wallpaper then the depression starts to become stronger and stronger until she
can’t bare it. After that, she realized that she won’t get better if she continues to follow the
rest cure.
Overall, Gilman uses The Yellow Wallpaper as a mirror of her first marriage life with
Stetson and uses it as an evidence to oppose the idea of the doctor who makes her takes the
rest cure. By illustrating the life of married woman that lives among the depression and losses
her independence to her husband, she doesn’t get a choice to choose. It has been chosen for
her. Gilman also puts her conflicts with the medical doctor in real life in the story by making
influential character like John, the husband of the narrator to be a doctor and builds the
differences in terms of ideal. In the story, Gilman uses the yellow wallpaper instead of the
depression to show us that as the time pass by she becomes more intense and it makes her
feel more upset. As a result, in the story Gilman makes the narrator rips of the wallpaper,
while in the real life she decides to return to write again.

References

REFLECTION OF CHARLOTTE PERKINS GILMAN

Beekman, M. (n.d.). Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935):Her life and work as a social
scientist and feminist. Retrieved from
http://faculty.webster.edu/woolflm/public_html/gilman.html

Boyd, C. (1989). Mothers and Daughters: A Discussion of Theory and Research. Journal of
Marriage and Family, 51(2), 291-301. doi:10.2307/352493
Gilman, C. P. (1913, October). Why I Wrote "The Yellow Wallpaper" The Forerunner.
Treichler, P. (1984). Escaping the Sentence: Diagnosis and Discourse in "The Yellow
Wallpaper" Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature, 3(1/2), 61-77. doi:10.2307/463825

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