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The yellow wallpaper By: Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

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1 The yellow wallpaper By: Charlotte Perkins Gilman

2 Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Gilman suffered from neurasthenia after she had her daughter. This disease is characterized by depression and fatigue but was not linked at the time to the depression some women experience after having a baby or postpartum depression. Her “unsuccessful prescription” from Silas Weir Mitchell lead her to write “The Yellow Wallpaper”. After Gilman had written “The Yellow Wallpaper” she decided to write an explanation of her purpose or so-what behind the story. She says that she based it on her own personal experiences through this disease and “it was not intended to drive people crazy, but to save people from being driven crazy, and it worked.” (Gilman, “Why I wrote Yellow Wallpaper”).

3 overview In the story, wallpaper, a usually feminine, floral decoration on the interior of walls, is a symbol of female imprisonment within the domestic sphere. Over the course of the story, the wallpaper becomes a text of sorts through which the narrator exercises her literary imagination and identifies with a feminist double figure. When John curbs her creativity and writing, the narrator takes it upon herself to make some sense of the wallpaper. She reverses her initial feeling of being watched by the wallpaper and starts actively studying and decoding its meaning. She untangles its chaotic pattern and locates the figure of a woman struggling to break free from the bars in the pattern. Over time, as her insanity deepens, she identifies completely with this woman and believes that she, too, is trapped within the wallpaper. When she tears down the wallpaper over her last couple of nights, she believes that she has finally broken out of the wallpaper within which John has imprisoned her. The wallpaper's yellow color has many possible associations - with jaundiced sickness, with discriminated-against minorities of the time (especially the Chinese), and with the rigid oppression of masculine sunlight. By tearing it down, the narrator emerges from the wallpaper and asserts her own identity, albeit a somewhat confused, insane one. Though she must crawl around the room, as the woman in the wallpaper crawls around, this "creeping" is the first stage in a feminist uprising.

4 Characters The Narrator-  A young, upper-middle-class woman, newly married and a mother, who is undergoing care for depression.  John -  The narrator’s husband and her physician. John restricts her behavior as part of her treatment. Unlike his imaginative wife, John is extremely practical, preferring facts . He seems to love his wife, but he does not understand the negative effect his treatment has on her. Jennie -  John’s sister. She acts as housekeeper for the couple. Her presence and her contentment with a domestic role intensify the narrator’s feelings of guilt over her own inability to act as a traditional wife and mother.

5 The yellow wallpaper The short story is about a women suffering from neurasthenia or postpartum depression. She waits to work and still be productive but a physician along with her husband and brother give her the “rest cure” prescription. This is what causes her depression to escalate because she is unable to feel productive in society and becomes a recluse. The narrator is imprisoned both physically (in her room) and emotionally (in her mind). Her room has bars on the windows and her life is controlled by a detailed schedule. In the end she becomes the woman in the wall that she sees throughout the story and at this point is beyond all medical help.

6 Point of view  As the main character’s fictional journal, the story is told in strict first-person narration, focusing exclusively on her own thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. Everything that we learn or see in the story is filtered through the narrator’s shifting consciousness, and since the narrator goes insane over the course of the story, her perception of reality is often completely at odds with that of the other characters. The point of view of the narrator is essential in understanding the feelings and emotions that she is experiencing throughout the course of the story. What is significant about the tense that the story is written?

7 Literary devices Paradox- The narrator of “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a paradox: as she loses touch with the outer world, she comes to a greater understanding of the inner reality of her life. This inner/outer split is crucial to understanding the nature of the narrator’s suffering. A paradox in literature refers to the use of concepts or ideas that are contradictory to one another, yet, when placed together hold significant value on several levels. The uniqueness of paradoxes lies in the fact that a deeper level of meaning and significance is not revealed at first glace, but when it does crystallize, it provides astonishing insight.

8 Literary devices (continued)
Irony - Almost every aspect of “The Yellow Wallpaper” is ironic in some way. In her journal, the narrator uses verbal irony often, especially in reference to her husband: “John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage.” Obviously, one expects no such thing, at least not in a healthy marriage. Later, she says, “I am glad my case is not serious,” at a point when it is clear that she is concerned that her case is very serious indeed. Irony-The use of irony in literature refers to playing around with words such that the meaning implied by a sentence or word is actually different from the literal meaning. Often irony is used to suggest the stark contrast of the literal meaning being put forth.

9 Literary devices (continued)
FORESHADOWING - The discovery of the teeth marks on the bedstead foreshadows the narrator’s own insanity and suggests the narrator is not revealing everything about her behavior; the first use of the word “creepy” foreshadows the increasing desperation of the narrator’s situation and her own eventual “creeping.” Foreshadowing-The literary device foreshadowing refers to the use of indicative word or phrases and hints that set the stage for a story to unfold and give the reader a hint of something that is going to happen without revealing the story or spoiling the suspense. Foreshadowing is used to suggest an upcoming outcome to the story.

10 Closing thoughts Gilman was able to alter medical practices with The Yellow Wallpaper and says that she has “saved one woman from a similar fate--so terrifying her family that they let her out into normal activity and she recovered.” (Gilman, “Why I wrote Yellow Wallpaper”) She was also using it to represent the oppression of women in a masculine society. Also the doctor that had applying the “rest cure” to her altered his treatment for neurasthenia or postpartum depression. Gilman was later diagnosed with incurable breast cancer and she killed herself with an overdose of chloroform rather then letting others be in charge of her life.

11 Discussion questions How would you describe the story's setting?
How and why is the setting significant? How would you describe the narrator's husband? How does the narration mimic the narrator's mental state? What does the narrator mean by, "I got out at last?" What does the ending of this story suggest about the woman behind the wall-paper? How are this woman and the wall-paper itself symbolic?

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