The Yellow Wallpaper

Keeping Women Sane

Reading “The Yellow Wallpaper” is like being drawn into the imaginary world of someone who is slowly leaving reality behind them. The short story is written as a kind of journal of the narrator as she becomes more and more detached from her family and her life. The reader sees only the narrator’s perspective, but her jumbled and paranoid thoughts are enough to make it clear that her viewpoint is far out of touch with the truth.

A main theme of Gilman’s work seems to be that the role traditionally available to females is not fulfilling enough to keep a relatively normal woman sane. As evidenced by the outlook of the central male character in the story, the narrator’s husband John, a female is a sort of delicate adornment for the home - not a living, breathing person with dreams, struggles, and needs. The more the narrator conforms to this belief, the more she loses her grip on reality.

From page one, Gilman’s narrator offers examples of her husband's belittling attitude. She writes, “John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that.” While certainly any loving, happy marriage will be filled with laughter, this is not friendly camaraderie: this is the kind of condescending laughter that says, “You are only a woman.” John...

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