Caged In

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Caged In: Breaking Through the Walls of Oppression Held back, caged, strangled, deprived, and hurt. These words begin to describe the feelings that are stressed in Gilman s The Yellow Wallpaper . Women have made incredible progress since 1892 when Gilman s short story was written. Charlotte Perkins Gilman knew that women were desperate for gender equality. In The Yellow Wallpaper, the narrator tries desperately to free an imaginary, imprisoned woman from that repellant, almost revolting wallpaper (Gilman 227). In The Yellow Wallpaper, Gilman uses personification to give the wallpaper a life of it s own and to be an overbearing symbol of female oppression. Furthermore, to understand Gilman s goals, we must first try to understand her as a person. This story is not just something Gilman conjured up with a creative mind. This story is a semi-autobiographical account of what she went through as a bed-ridden wife and mother suffering from depression. At one point in the story Gilman referred to her own neurologist: John says if I don t pick up faster he shall send me to Weir Mitchell in the fall (Gilman 229). By the time Gilman was writing The Yellow Wallpaper, she had already been cured of her depression and began focusing her efforts on feminism since she believed the oppression of women was the cause for these mental illnesses. Moreover, Gilman s feminist beliefs had always bled through her writing, and The Yellow Wallpaper would hold true to this form. From the beginning of the story the narrator was introduced to the reader as a woman who was seemingly trapped in a room full of boredom and time due to her husband s treatment for her mental illness. She has been banned from any creative escape such as writing or painting. She consistently received child-like treatment from her husband John: There comes John, and I must put this away---he hates to have me write a word (227). There was a distinct correlation between the narrator s hatred for the room and the wallpaper. Throughout the novel, Gilman revealed the transformation of the once-hated wallpaper into a passionate obsession. Early on, the narrator perceived that there was a living woman trapped in a cage within the wallpaper. The woman in the wallpaper is the narrator s only true focus in her life. The narrator s goal of freeing the trapped woman in the wallpaper was her only escape from her own life of nothingness and boredom. As the narrator and the wallpaper became more dependent upon each other, they seemed to become one for both tried to escape their different, yet equally awful prisons. The narrator has been locked away and hidden from her child for something she can not help. If you compare this piece of the plot to the central theme of female oppression, they can be easily related. The narrator s rights to be free and enjoy her creativity were stripped away from her, while women s rights including the vote and the ability to be economically independent have been taken away. Accordingly, the narrator escaped and set the entrapped prisoner free, symbolizing the freedom of all women from oppression. This was Gilman s answer to how women must free themselves. Gilman showed that the narrator was crazy so the reader understood what this freedom cost. The narrator made it clear that once she was free, she would never return: I ve got out at last, And I ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can't put me back! (237). The two trapped wome

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