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Imagery in The Yellow Wallpaper

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Short stories are stories that are with a fully developed theme but remarkably shorter and less complicated than a novel. The short story I will be discussing is, “ The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The short story contains some events that the author has experienced in her life. This may be known as a story within a story. She incorporated some of the occurrences in her life. She wrote towards the way she felt. For example, she wrote the details towards a fight against depression and disorders.

As you read into the story, you learn some details about the characters from the writing. We have the first character which is the narrator, a young middle-class woman. She is newly married and a mother who is currently going through a stage of depression. Her doctors believe she has a slight hysterical tendency. We next have John, who happens to be the narrator’s husband and her physician. He’s an extremely practical person. He very much loves his wife dearly, but cannot seem to see the consequences of what he does to his wife. We finally have our last character being, Jennie, sister of John. In the story, she is the housekeeper for the loving couple. Jennie’s presence makes the narrator feel as if she is incapable of doing her job, which is being a wife and mother.

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As we’ve gotten a few characteristics of the main characters we can dive a little bit deeper into the story and what’s the meaning behind it. This short story deals with many issues that women went through in the 19th century that was daily. The story begins with the husband and wife moving into a new house with their first child being born. She had mention saying there was something “queer” about the baby. However, John doesn’t seem to agree with her statement. He feels as if she’s just being suspicious. The narrator is sick and facing depression, but the husband believes to keep his mind on saying she’ll be better soon. Moving a little forward, the narrator goes to a beautiful garden and has to look through the barred windows to look and admire it. Eventually, she takes notice of the wallpaper; which is the main object of this whole story. Her first description being, “dull enough to confuse the eye in the following, pronounced enough to constantly irritate and provoke study, and when you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide… destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions.” (Gilman 123 line 35). This can mean many things. The pattern on the wallpaper is being compared to women as if they were objects. Fast forwarding, to the wallpaper later in the story; the wallpaper was seen as some sort of maze-like figure. Those mainly pointed towards the columns on the wallpaper.

The main theme of the short story would be many different things. The first theme would have to be the oppressive nature of gender roles. The next theme would be appearance versus reality. Finally, would be the need for self-satisfaction and self- smugness. The first theme would have the meaning of the harsh gender roles as in showing how men overruled the women back in the 19th century. In the story, the narrator wanted to stay in the attic but her husband didn’t want to let her. He didn’t think about what she wanted. He forced her to be in the room with the yellow wallpaper instead of the attic, where she really wanted to be instead. The author wrote, “John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no reason to suffer, and that satisfies him.” (Gilman 124 line 45 and 46). This quote is a prime example of how John overruled her because he wasn’t considerate of her feelings and he controlled her on how she felt. The next theme meaning would be where the narrator is in the yellow wallpapered room. She wanted to see the beautiful garden which was her reality, but instead, she saw the wallpaper with the flowers. She felt as if she was in jail, which is why she didn’t like being in there at night.

The plot of the story is when the narrator throws the key out of the barred window. The narrator tells John, “the key is down by the front steps, under a plantain leaf.” (Gilman 134 line 259). To explain this quote, the narrator has concluded that she may never get out. She had no choice but to listen to John. He was the man of the house. The whole time she wanted to leave, as soon as she gets the key, she throws the key. Over time the longer she stayed there, the crazier she went. She felt trapped and like she couldn’t escape. She ruined her only chance of having freedom.

This Yellow Wallpaper contains many different literary devices. One of the literary devices that are being used is Imagery. Imagery is being used when they talk about the yellow wallpaper in the room. Gilman writes, “The color is repellant, almost revolting; a smoldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight.” (Gilman 123 line 39). This quote explains the way the narrator saw the wallpaper. She absolutely got her point across on how much she did not like it. However, John didn’t care about what she thought and felt because he didn’t think the way she felt mattered. Another literary device that is most commonly used is symbolism. One example is when the narrator sees a figure behind the wallpaper. The narrator states, “The faint figure behind seemed to shake the pattern, just as if she wanted to give out.” For further understanding, the narrator somewhat sees herself trapped within the walls and she sees the figure trapped within the wallpaper. Another symbolism statement was used when John comes and sees his wife. The narrator states, “I’ve got out at last … And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back.” (Gilman 134 line 267 & 268). This shows that she set the figure free and because she sees the figure as herself, she also feels that she is finally free. In the story, there is also some personification. Gilman writes, “The color is hideous enough, unreliable enough, and infuriating enough, but the pattern is torturing. You think you have mastered it, but just as you get well underway in following, it turns a back somersault, and there you are. It slaps you in the face, knocks you down, tramples upon you. It is like a bad dream.” (Gilman 129 line 145-149). This tells the readers that the narrator doesn’t have a good experience when it comes to this wallpaper.

In conclusion, the short story, The Yellow Wallpaper is a confusing and somewhat creepy story. But it also informs us on how women were treated as if they were robots and their feelings weren’t real. The men saw it as if they didn’t know what they were talking about. Overall, this story has had some dark parts and it just gets interesting the more you read about the room and what is being experienced throughout everything.  

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