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Essay on 'The Yellow Wallpaper' Feminist Criticism

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Should gender identify the bases of one’s capability? There should be no limit to who you can and cannot be based on what you identify as. The basis of one’s capabilities should not be limited to the identity that they are given at birth or what they are seen by society. An individual’s values are not based on their gender but on what they experience through their lifetime and strive to become. The reading “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, demonstrates the ideas of how gender played a major influence during the nineteenth century. The fear of women being superior to the male population in thought is frightening and unheard of to society. The protagonist in the article, Jane, faces a lack of support from her husband because of her intelligence and creativity in writing. This illustrates a fear of women's superiority in society which eventually led to her confining herself and worsening her mental condition, which ultimately led to her trauma and mental breakdown behind “The Yellow Wallpaper”. The reason this reading stands out and influences heavily is due to the hidden meaning and purpose behind the story. The struggles of being a female and being penalized for having opposite traits and qualities to that of the opposite gender should oppose their way of thinking. Even today, although the ideas and concepts of being a man have lowered, these thoughts of inequality still exist. Many women and men understand the results of different gender equality because it is always around us. The concepts of gender identity play an essential part in assuming one’s worth before knowing one’s worth.

According to the authors of on the topic of feminism, “it is a belief in the political, economic and cultural equality of women, has roots in the earliest eras of human civilization.” In my opinion, the idea of feminism is that women should have equal rights as men in any circumstance. This would include equal opportunities like equal pay, flexible career choices, education, political standpoints, and other things that stereotypically would not be deemed as worthy or feasible for a woman from a masculinity perspective. Feminism isn’t just about creating a society for women to prove themselves just to be equal but to illustrate the value they can withhold and have withheld in society. The fight to be deemed an equal in society against males in the day and age was up and coming as the movement started around the nineteenth century. The idea was created to be given the opportunity towards equal education because the upper-class society was predominately male. Although equal pay was a major concern as well, it was later shifted to bigger ideas like political rights on women's suffrage. As a result, in the 1920s, females were thought to be “equal” in a renowned society. The diary took place near the end of the 1800s entering the 1900s, very close to the wave of the first Feminist Movement. Also based on the authors of the article “Feminism” found on, the movement of Feminism was not a matter of a day or two but a movement that consisted of three waves. The first wave involved fighting for rights that protected women and rights that gave both males as well as females equal rights. The second wave focused on discrimination and equality between the genders. The third wave was more biased because it was discussing and moved towards how racial differences were also playing a role in the movement. Out of the three waves, the second one would be more directly related to the diary. The disbelief of having a wife who was intelligent and talented in journalism made the husband John feel uncomfortable. Although this point was not made clearly, the narrator’s description of how a man of high standing and a physician assured her that she was just simply experiencing temporary depression due to being nervous. Furthermore, being reassured by other physicians including Janes's brother. As well as when it mentions how she feels exhausted from having to hide her writing. In these two events in the journal, it shows that one; the males in the family do not trust or feel that there is anything out of the ordinary whenever the protagonist mentions discomfort. Another one is having to sneak around to write or do certain activities. This is an idea that is repeatedly mentioned; it is mentioned once at the beginning of the text when she says, “I would not say this to a living soul, of course, this is dead paper…” and again when it mentions “I take pains to control myself-before him, at least and that makes me very tired”. These two pieces of evidence are essential in understanding the ideas of feminism as well as how the females before and during feminism behavedlived. They were constrained to behave and act a certain way to prevent being perceived as irregular or out of norms. Another piece of evidence to take note of would be when the narrator mentions how John’s sister is perfect and enthusiastic, but she must be careful around this sister-in-law because her sister-in-law also believes that writing is not what she should be doing. The representation shown here is a comparison that displays the difference between the narrator and the sister-in-law. This case is that the sister-in-law is most likely the ideal or closest image that she can provide to how women of this period would behave and think compared to themselves. The layering of multiple matters compiled and became more than a physical strain but also a heavy mental strain.

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The added-on strains on her mental state since the beginning of the diary slowly yet gradually resulted in what became of her in the very end. There is a saying the saying goes, it is impossible to fix a broken glass, which can also imply one’s mental state; you cannot mend or heal one’s shattered self. The little things and actions John did and said only added on to her symptoms and discomfort because he did not support or comfort her in a way in which she felt reassured or calmed. For example, there were multiple times throughout the diary, where the narrator speaks out and expresses her discomfort and her uneasiness about the new environment yet he either coldly responded or told her it was simply her imagination. These small acts built up and forced her into a corner where she could only confide in herself and fear sharing it. This leads to the act where she visualizes and imagines the horrors behind “the yellow wallpaper”. An interesting note to look at in the diary is when the narrator describes the women behind the yellow wallpaper differently according to the time of day. She describes how the woman behind it is constantly moving and trying to get out and she also mentions bars appearing. The bars trap the woman within the yellow wallpaper. Another perspective of this, is the narrator is seeing herself behind the wallpaper. The woman during moonlight is the woman freed of restraints from the outside yet not freed from self-restraint. The woman that is appearing during the day is the ideal woman that is restrained by both society and identity. The moment when she decided to confide herself and throw the keys until John returns to her side. Yet when he returns, she is already experiencing a major breakdown mentally, unable to bring herself together and differentiate between reality and imagination. During her confinement, as she looks outside towards society, the women which she describes as creepy are the women she sees restrained and roleplaying as the women befitted to that of society. When she says, “I have pulled off all the paper, so you can’t put me back” the dialogue supports my previous assumption of how she is imagining a mirror image of who she wanted to be. A soul who was free of restraints from norms and society. In a scene where the narrator announces “…have an outburst, due to repression or sheer unhappiness or discontent, she was label “mad”…” she is free which describes the beginning of the movement of feminism which soon took place not long after the period in which it was published. “The History of Women’s Mental Illness” is presented clearly in the diary’s scenario. A woman experiencing a breakdown ultimately causes her to go “mad” yet stay sane enough to know what she is doing. Although nearing the end of the diary, some may say she seems to be quite mentally unstable and not sane, it is the contrary, she may be mentally unstable due to the built-up stress, oppression, depression, and all the little matters that caused her breakdown, but she is clear of what she is doing.

The connection between gender inequality, feminism, and the outcome of the two combined are clearly illustrated throughout the diary. Although she had a husband who “respected and loved” her, he was also the one who put her in a room with the yellow wallpaper which resulted to push her toward the ending where she became broken. Even though gender inequality was not expressed very straightforwardly in the diary, it was an obstacle that they faced. Why couldn’t she write? Why was she on medications for being overly nervous? Why did John not want to believe in what she was trying to convey? The answers to these questions may vary but the general answer to these three may be concluded with the traditional concepts of gender inequality that led to the lack of support. The little moments throughout the diary established the different concepts and ideas of how gender inequality plays such a big role and feminism not being a big part at that time. The lack of feminist support and movements didn’t provide her with any outer support to live in society. Leading to a lack of mental support, especially being recently pregnant and giving birth, the period after giving birth is extremely sensitive to women because it is a time when they stress and overthink. This is an extremely important time for women to recover because it is so sensitive and fragile timing. Yet John was unable to provide her with all the support and care, she eventually resorted to confining herself mentally and then physically. This diary is a great resemblance to the many concepts of the difficulties women face no matter the period.

Work Cited:

  1. Crowder, Sarah L. “Feminist Gothic in ‘The Yellow Wallpaper.’” Feminist Gothic in 'The Yellow Wallpaper' |, Lone Star College System Office, https:www.lonestar.eduyellow-wallpaper.htm.
  2. In the publication by Sarah Crowder, she uses various information articles on feminism and how it relates back to the problems the narrator faces. By understanding the problems, we can infer what the author is trying to announce in her diary. Crowder also is a female herself giving her view of feminism to be more powerful. She also uses various outside sources to refer to what some meanings truly meant. As a result, the author provides various examples and how it relates back to feminism. In connection to “The Yellow Wallpaper”, this article can be perceived as a supporting standpoint in the view of feminism compared to opposing genders.
  3. Editor, Pioneer. “The Yellow Wallpaper: A Reflection On Women’s Mental Health In America.” OCCC Pioneer, 18 Feb. 2018, https: pioneer.occc.eduthe-yellow-wallpaper-womens-mental-health.
  4. Further supporting the previous citation, the publisher includes more about women's mental health by elaborating on how females were neglected and not treated as seriously. The editor provides various information about the narrator’s emotions and elaborates on her point of view. This portrays a new way of looking at what the narrator was trying to convey from her standpoint. By being able to know what truly was going on during that time, it can help go further in-depth about the situation. The editor uses various sources (Time Magazine and The World Health Organization) to support the idea.
  5. Hitch, Edward. “Feminism in ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ by Charlotte Gilman.”, 11 May 2021, https: literature. comfeminism-in-the-yellow-wallpaper-by-charlotte-gilman.
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Essay on ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ Feminist Criticism. (2023, September 19). Edubirdie. Retrieved November 29, 2023, from
“Essay on ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ Feminist Criticism.” Edubirdie, 19 Sept. 2023,
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