The Yellow Wallpaper Setting
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Upon turning the first page of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s, “The Yellow Wallpaper” the reader is plunged into the mind of an emotionally and mentally disturbed woman through her own written words. As the story develops the reader begins to learn little characteristics concerning the woman’s mental condition given information provided by other characters within the story. However, if it was not for the time period within the story is set, how the structure of the house describes the woman’s internal emotions, and how the yellow wallpaper portrays the woman’s mental condition, the reader would not get the full psychological effect from this thrilling story. Firstly, the time period within the story is set plays a big role to the reader when it comes to understanding the woman’s mental state. During the period within the story is set, 1892, it was common for males to have a dictatorial presence. The reader sees this when John, the woman’s husband, ignores her pleas and opinions about her own mental condition, “If a physician of high standing, and one’s own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression—a slight hysterical tendency—what is one to do” (Gilman 297).
Although John is a kind man, who only wants the best for his wife, it is due to his rational mindset that forces the women to keep all of her thoughts inwards; which eventually leads to her becoming a prisoner in her own mind due to no one will take her seriously. Secondly, the house within “The Yellow Wallpaper” helps the reader understand the woman’s unspoken emotions. “[The house] is quite alone standing well back from the road, quite three miles from the village. It makes me think of English places that you read about, for there are hedges and walls and gates that lock, and lots of separate little houses for the gardeners and people” (Gilman 297). Although the house may sound beautiful, it stands back away from the road and contains many “locks” and “separate little houses”; giving the reader a hint that it maybe a old insane asylum. Furthermore, in keeping with the feeling of isolation and restriction, the windows that look out from the house are barred, preventing any sort of escape or relief. Thus, as being shown by the he house being isolated and restricted, it subconsciously describes the narrator’s unspoken emotional position.
Lastly, the yellow wallpaper within the story portrays the woman’s mental condition. As the narrator begins to drawn further and further into her fantasy with the yellow wallpaper, the reader is shown a disturbing statement that the women secretly provides, “There are things in that paper which nobody knows but me, or ever will. Behind that outside pattern the dim shapes get clearer every day. It is always the same shape, only very numerous. And it is like a woman stooping down and creeping about behind that pattern. I don’t like it a bit” (Gilman 302). The reader is shown by the wallpaper, that the woman is actually the “stooping” woman she is viewing within the wallpaper whom is longing to free. The wallpaper, being the connection for the reader to see within the woman’s mind, is showing just how trapped and mentally unstable the woman truly is feeling.
In conclusion, the settings within “The Yellow Wallpaper” truly are the main characters of the story. If it was not for the time period within the story is set, how the structure of the house describes the woman’s internal emotions, and how the yellow wallpaper plays off the woman’s mental condition, the reader would not get the full psychological effective from this thrilling story.
Gilman Perkins, Charlotte. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” The Art of the Short
Story. Ed. Dana Gioia and R.S Gwynn. Pearson Longman, 2006. 297-308