The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a timeless classic in feminist literature because it features many crucial themes that deal with issues women of that time and often times even today face such as the importance of self-expression, mental illness being misunderstood or even ignored, and the danger that gender roles pose to women’s self-identity. Gilman accomplishes this by criticizing the traditional gender roles that were imposed on women in the late nineteenth century, which is when the story was written and set in. She also does this by drawing from her own personal experience to write a story that hits close to home to many women regardless of what generation they are from.
The narrator of the story is unnamed, but she is an upper-middle-class lady who is suffering from what we would now call postpartum depression. John who is her husband and a physician decides to rent a house in the country and recommended a rest cure for her hysteria. A rest cure was a treatment option back in the day where one essentially was confined to their room and weren’t allowed to do anything. She tries to express to him that this would treatment would make her feel worse, but he completely ignores her concerns. This leaves her feeling voiceless and lonely. This is where the theme of self-expression begins to take place after he locks her in an old room that was a nursery and has ugly yellow paper. She ignores his discouragement from writing which is her only creative outlet and secretly starts to write in her diary about her emotions and experience.
The narrator is extremely lonely and isolated throughout her stay at the summer home as part of her treatment. Her only source of entertainment is writing in her journal and attempting to figure out the ugly yellow wallpaper pattern. As the story progresses, slowly her obsession with the yellow wallpaper grows to disturbing levels. She begins to see something that resembles a woman creeping around behind the main pattern, which she believes looks like the bars of a cage or jail. She is terrified and tries to convince John to leave but he once again makes light of her concerns, effectively silencing and dismissing her concerns once again. Later on, her fixation for the wallpaper is thought to be a sign of her improvement by the others like Jennie. John even begins to think she is improving as well but in truth, she is getting less and less sleep each time and is now convinced that she can smell the paper all over the house, even outside. She is also now confirmed there is a woman behind the painting who is trying to get out of there.
The Yellow Wallpaper remains classic feminist literature because it resonates with the woman of all generations.