Does ‘the Yellow Wallpaper’ Simply Portray One Woman’s Descent Into Madness or Does It Examine the Struggle Between Marriage and Career, Social Expectations and Personal Goals?

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‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ is a short story written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in 1899. Gilman wrote the story after a recent recovery from madness in retaliation to a doctor’s wishes that she rest. The story reveals the case of a young woman who appears to be battling with mental illness whilst simultaneously being oppressed by her husband. However, the story also delves deeply into society’s ideas about women within marriage during the Victorian era. The story could be recognised as one woman’s descent into madness. This can be illustrated through the protagonist’s unusual obsession with the wallpaper. Throughout the story the woman devotes many hours studying every aspect of the wallpaper, commenting on its colour, appearance and even the smell. The first sign of the woman noticing the wallpaper reveals that she has strong negative emotions towards it. “I never saw a worse paper in my life.” As the narrative develops, her later feelings start to contradict her initial emotions and her behaviour becomes more irrational. “...It is like the colour of the paper! A yellow smell.” The suggestion of the wallpaper having a smell indicates a lingering odour which is perhaps metaphoric of the woman having the wallpaper consistently on her mind. She has become so entirely absorbed by the wallpaper that she is now letting it dictate her senses. As the story develops the woman’s descent into madness can start to be seen more clearly as she reveals her obsessive and protective nature over the wallpaper. “I don’t want to leave until I have it out…I caught Jennie with her hand on it once.” This is due to the woman spending increased amounts of time on her own in the confinement of her bedroom. Whilst nearing the verges of madness, her only mental stimulation is her focus on the wallpaper. “But I find I get pretty tired when I try.” The short and blunt structure of this

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