Literature 110- Week 2- Assignment 1
Read: Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” and “The Storm.” Read Charolette Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.”
Nothing is worse than feeling trapped.
Both Chopin and Gilman address this issue; Chopin examining sexual repression while Gilman challenging the mental. However, it is my love of psychology and feminism that attracts me to Gilman’s story of “The Yellow Wallpaper,” and how one copes in a collapsing world.
When an individual is depressed, it is difficult for them to step outside of themselves and interact with the world beyond their internal turmoil. Add to that, an era of when women were considered unequal and fragile, taming one’s inner conflicts ends in torment and quite literally, breaks both the mind and the spirit. Forced to a bedridden state as it is considered healing, one is only left with their isolation and thoughts, only to further the depressive state and focus on one’s inadequacies.
Gilman never gives us the name of our narrator, thus placing reader into the narrator as she sits ever so quietly writing in her journal. It is an exhaustive task, and one that her husband John “hates to have her write a word.” Whether this is because it is exhausting or because he feels it negatively influences her recovery or because he often shushes her thoughts and feelings as flighty, we can only assume that the journal is the only way she has to truly express herself.
“I did write for a while in spite of them; but it does exhaust me a good deal—having to be so sly about it, or else meet with heavy opposition.”
And yet, writing is the only way that she can express herself without the judgment of others while she sits in her room and “recovers.”
So much of the journal is focused upon the yellowed wall paper, the paper that the children destroyed, and yet, slowly destroys our narrator. Trapped on an unmovable bed, at first she hates the wallpaper, then notices becomes intrigued by its intricacies, and lastly discovers that it is the cage. It becomes her job in freeing those trapped by it, and in the tearing down of the walls (so to speak), she becomes free but only to lose herself in the very end. Completing her cage by locking the room, she completes her task.
Our narrator started the story standing tall. In the end, she is creeping, crawling around on all fours over the body of her fainted husband but she has metaphorically freed the trapped individuals, her self included, while proclaiming her freedom over her husband’s body. All this treatment of tonics and bed rest because she was not the practical individual like her husband but rather emotional and reactive to her environment. And sadly, it is the treatment that eventually ruins her.