Unraveling: The Heroine of Charlotte Essay
Excerpt from Essay :
"I cry at nothing, and cry most of the time… I lie here on this great immovable bed -- it is nailed down, I believe -- and follow that pattern about by the hour. It is as good as gymnastics, I assure you. I start, we'll say, at the bottom, down in the corner over there where it has not been touched, and I determine for the thousandth time that I will follow that pointless pattern to some sort of a conclusion." She does not think of her child, and only occasionally of her husband. The wallpaper and the imaginary woman command her focus. Forced into a pointless existence, and denied the mobility and the intellectual excitement that make life meaningful, the woman's mind turns to other intellectual and imaginary pursuits, Gilman suggests.
Eventually, rather than describing herself as looking at the pattern of the wallpaper, Gilman's heroine disassociates and projects herself as a trapped individual on the other side of the wallpaper. She refers to the other woman as 'she.' "I didn't realize for a long time what the thing was that showed behind, that dim sub-pattern, but l now I am quite sure it is a woman. By daylight she is subdued, quiet. I fancy it is the pattern that keeps her so still. It is so puzzling. It keeps me quiet by the hour." Although this is an indication that the narrator is far less mentally stable than when she began her 'rest cure'
the fixation upon the wallpaper has remained constant throughout the story, as well as the language of entrapment and the woman's reflection on the 'puzzle' of the wallpaper's pattern.
According to the feminist critic Elaine Hedges the wallpaper "symbolizes her [the woman's] situation as seen by the men who control her and hence her situation as seen by herself" (Bak 1994, p.1). "The Yellow Wallpaper,' then, became a feminist text that indicted the men who were responsible for the narrator's physical confinement and subsequent mental demise" (Bak 1994, p.1). But while the rest cure intensifies female socialization as confinement and lack of mental activity, it is not entirely different from the narrator's earlier existence as a wife and mother. She is, even at the beginning of the story, emotionally 'spent' from the demands of motherhood and a husband who is overbearing and does not understand her needs. "The Yellow Wallpaper" does not illustrate a fundamental change in the main character, but rather illustrates an intensification of her feelings early on in the story, that gradually become projected onto a disembodied 'other woman,' yearning to be free.
Bak, John S. "Escaping the jaundiced eye: Foucauldian Panopticism in Charlotte Perkins
Gilman's 'The Yellow Wallpaper.'" Studies in Short Fiction. Winter 1994.
Accessed from Find Articles October 6, 2010 at http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2455/is_n1_v31/ai_15356232/?tag=content;col1
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. "The Yellow Wallpaper." Full e-text available from the University
of Virginia October 6, 2010: http://etext.virginia.edu/etcbin/toccer-new2?id=GilYell.sgm&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/parsed&tag=public&part=1&division=div1
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