The Yellow Wallpaper: Character Analysis
The yellow paper is an interesting short story uses the construction and style of a diary. It is a narration of the life of a woman trapped in a domineering male society that does not allow her to do things differently from the instructions of her husband. The Yellow Wallpaper is such a story that uses the effect of shifting narrative between typical past tense and to the more unfamiliar present tense. The present-tense narration is one that helps with the depiction of female consciousness. The reader experiences the events with the narrator as they unfold allowing the reader to avoid forming judgments on the characters involved. The readers are subconsciously forced to wait for how things will play out before making a judgment. An analysis of the narrator (the main character in the text), her background and her conflict is provided in this essay.
At some point, the narrator says, “I wonder if they all came out of the wallpaper as I did” as she sees creeping women through her window (Gilman 11). This idea of coming out of the paper reflects some kind of freedom and concurs with her descent into madness. She rips off the paper, locks herself in the room and starts going at the static bed with her teeth. There are various pointers to her character. She states somewhat astonishingly, “I always lock the door when I creep by daylight” (9). At this point, she turns into the creeping woman. Her shoulder fitting into the grove on the wall can mean that she is the creeping woman, the one tearing out the paper and creeping around.
The madness is not her fault and can mostly be associated with John’s treatment of her so the shoulder fitting into the groove can also be interpreted to mean that there are other women like her. After John faints towards the end of the text, she goes on tiptoeing around the room and stepping over him each time in a manner that is rather disturbing.
Background of the character
The character is a woman as indicated by her being married to a man-John- and the setting of the story being 1890. There is a huge likelihood that she and John are merely ordinary people most likely middle class. All these aspects are actually bellicosely anonymous: the narrator is not named and her husband John has a name that does not really give clues about who he is or his origin. The circumstance that all of these characteristics-her class, gender, and marriage- are all mentioned in the first sentence and her name does not appear may be an indication that these general features may be crucial to the unfolding of the plot more than her identity or personal history are. The reader does not even get to know her personally as the plot unfolds.
The importance of these traits as mentioned provides the background central conflicts that provide direction for the story. the narrator is a writer with a sensitive temperament and has been ill, an illness that has made her weak and under a domineering husband. Today it would not be okay to have a husband be the wife’s physician, but John is the narrator’s physician who makes all the decisions for her which really makes her cross. “If a physician of high standing, and one’s own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression—a slight hysterical tendency—what is one to do?’ (1).
There is a lot of information about the character and her conflicts from the passage where she discusses John and his belief of her not being sick. The first thing the reader gest is that the narrator is quite withdrawn from her treatment. “So I take phosphates or phosphites—whichever it is, (1). If she really had faith in her treatment then she would not forget what her medicine is called. She is antagonized by almost every person which is very clear when she says, “Personally, I disagree with their ideas.” (1)
Her mental ailment creates tension in their marriage. John does not buy into “..things not to be felt and seen and put down in figures” (1). Whenever the narrator raises a concern about her health to John, he responds by stating her body is getting better and better. It is not apparent why her body is weak though but might be she had a difficult birth. John refuses to acknowledge that her suffering might be mental.
The Yellow Wallpaper is an important account of a woman and her conflict with a society that is domineering and puts women in a different social status. The author creates a picture of women’s struggles with disregard for their consciousness. The story does this using a character that is dealing with mental problems that are not considered an illness. Her background is set in a manner that informs the plot and direction of the story. She is held in conflict and seeks freedom she supposedly gets in the end.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins, 1860-1935. The Charlotte Perkins Gilman Reader: The Yellow Wallpaper, and Other Fiction. New York: Pantheon Books, 1980. Print