Exploring the Themes of Identity Loss and Oppression
Analysis of the short story, The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
In “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the narrator faces the impending doom of her imprisonment within her own life and mind. The setting of this story occurs in the late 1800s during a time in which women were seen as feeble, weak, and incapable of using their own intellect to be creative. The narrator is struggling with the role she plays within her family as a mother and wife. As the story progresses, the reader witnesses the slow downfall of the narrator’s mind as she starts to see a woman trapped behind the patterned yellow wallpaper in her room the imprisonment of herself within her own life. The narrator uses her first-person point of view to bring to life the themes of identity loss and oppression that eventually lead to her final downfall at the end of the story.
The narrator's use of her shared thoughts throughout the story allows the reader to understand her imprisonment and loss of identity. Throughout the story, you are given examples of the narrator’s husband and his comments made towards her writing and creative thoughts. Her husband expects her to “rest” by removing all intelligence and emotional stimulation. This can be seen best through the quote, “He says that with my imaginative power and habit of story-making, a nervous weakness like mine is sure to lead to all manner of excited fancies and that I ought to use my will and good sense to check the tendency (4).” Her creativity is suppressed by her husband’s idea that her mind is too weak to handle such thoughts and ideas. The narrator’s passion for writing is included in this suppressed creativity which contributes to the theme of identity loss throughout the story. Her identity loss is a side effect of the oppression she undergoes from her husband and by society during the era in which she lives.
The theme of oppression is best represented by the ways in which her husband speaks and refers to her. “Bless her little heart!” said he with a big hug. “She shall be as sick as she pleases” (8)! The narrator’s husband is constantly treating her as if she is a child and doesn’t know better. The reader is also given the impression that the husband does not believe the narrator…