How Gilman Used Setting, Conflict, and Symbolism to Present her Theme of Feminist Suppression in The Yellow Wallpaper.
There is a lot of debate about the gender roles that are prescribed by the society and which are perceived to be the cause of discrimination between males and females. The conventions are perceived as the cause of feminist oppression by the male gender. In The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Gilman, the main character is presented with some uncanny autobiographical resemblance to the lifestyle that Gilman went through. The main protagonist in the story is Jane, who attempts to set herself free from the bondage of a male domineering medical profession that has her subjected to a forced and debilitating treatment that is referred to as the resting cure. The forced resting cure denies the protagonist the freedom to take part in activities that result in intellectual stimulation. The kind oppression that Jane goes through leads her to psychologically destabilized state of mind. Gilman uses the story The Yellow Wallpaper to raise consciousness about the erroneous medical rules that are imposed on women and to show a number of elements of social injustices many American women had to go through during latter part of nineteenth century. This discussion presents an in-depth analysis of how Gilman made use of setting, conflict and symbolism in presentation of the theme of feminist suppression in the Yellow Wallpaper.
Critics regard The Yellow Wallpaper as a feminist literary that gives a picture of the 19th century societal expectations on women who had forcefully adhered to the cult of domesticity. The story shows medical stereotypes regarding women health and oppression that is evident in matters that pertain to marriage, womens faith and stereotype, and patriarchal oppression that is presented through the predicaments that the main character goes through. The story reveals the slow paced mental retardation of young women the 19th century America.
Gilman has used conflict and symbolism to depict the gender limitations that the narrator goes through as is facilitated by the figuration of boundaries and spatial limitations that the main character is subjected to with an aim of limiting her physical mobility while also reducing her mental competence. Snodgrass states that, The narrator uses the Yellow Wallpaper as a vehicle that facilitates narration to relay information regarding various forms of oppression that the female gender is subjected to by the male domineering society. Gilman went through her personal life making a lot of reconciliatory attempts to change the demands that the society places on women in relation to marriage and work. In the story the Yellow Wallpaper, Gilman symbolically memorizes internal conflict that the female gender goes through in an attempt to conform to the expectations of the society that requires a securely rooted domestic life that is contrasted to a life that would allow members of the female gender to have economic and social independence. Gilman presents a story that shows life as a suffocating experience by women of the Victorian era.
In The Yellow Wallpaper, Gilman selects a setting and crafts her sentences in a manner that conveys the picture of male oppression and domination over women. The descriptions that she gives to the house give an indication of a gone era as she refers to the house as a colonial mansion, a hereditary estate...the most beautiful place! It is quite alone, standing well back from the road...there are hedges and walls and gates that lock. In this case, Gilman almost sets a setting that could be used for a ghost story. Gilman uses old things as a symbol of out-dated practices and mistreatment of women in the sense that she believes that the future has a lot in terms of equality for women. The tone in which Gilman sets the story gives an allusion of the oppressive practices that she feels needs to be abandoned so as to be part of history. The narrator uses specifically selected descriptions for the house with an aim of communicating specific message to the audience. She creates a sinister atmosphere by use of terns like a colonial mansion to give an indication of the oppression of women. She also shows obsession with the oppressive acts of men through a display of dark thought of seriously burning the house-to reach the smell.
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The text that Gilman uses also indicate her perceptions about how she regarded the roles of women as was prescribed by the society. For example, the main character stumbles words like phosphates hence giving an indication that women were overlooked in education. She indicates that women were not technical hence they have no point of knowing things to do with phosphate which are only found in the scientific realm that is a reserve for men. In the initial five pages, Gilman paints a picture of a Victorian woman character that is simple, dutiful to her husband and less-technical. The garden of the house is described as delicious so as to give an allusion that the womans place is in the kitchen. The description in itself shows a possibility of women being fascinated with a garden. According to Rtz, the character that is presented in the initial pages is one who is submissive to the husband and who goes to the point of blaming herself for being unreasonably angry. The woman is made to believe that she has a nervous disorder by her husband and doctors such that although she objects the idea of going for a treatment, she simply accepts it because her husband wants her to do it. According to Alfadel , the woman in the The Yellow Wallpaper was completely submissive to her husband as a result of conforming to societys expectations of a securely rooted domestic life as opposed to living a life that offered a more economic and social independence.
The story has several allegories and metaphors that relate to the paper with several complex references. The papers stench pervades that entire house to give an indication of pervasive injustice against women that could hardly be escaped and which can be compared to the unspoken social rules that always govern Gilman. The pattern of the papers slowly develops to a woman that is seen to be shaking bars from an image of bulbous eyes. Such a picture is drawn in the audiences aye to convey a message of a paranoid menagerie of domination. The paper is seen to be capable of staining people and things in a manner that is similar to the society that passes its sense of protocol from one generation to another. In this way, Gilman uses the paper as a symbol of thee decay that exists in the society and which is passed on from a father to a son such that it hardly dies off. There are several ways in which chauvinism has perpetrated itself as evidenced by the light that changes constantly to reveal the new mutating forms of the paper.
To conclude, Gilman has made a perfect use of conflict, setting and symbolism to convey the message of female suppression in The Yellow Wallpaper. She used several metaphors and particular choice of words that give an indication of the oppressive acts of men in a male dominated society. Women had their rights limited by the societal expectation such that they had to be submissive to their husbands. The setting of the story that involves a vivid description of the colonial hall and the wallpapers has served to convey the message of a gone era. The era is foregone in the sense that Gilman expects new order to be adopted that is characterized by equality. The overriding motive of Gilmans narrator is self-liberation from the symbolic patriarchal representation of the yellow wallpaper. Such an objective can only achieved by taking bold steps to free the women who are trapped behind the wallpaper.