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MidTerm - Term Paper Example

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The Yellow Wallpaper Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s late nineteenth century story entitled The Yellow Wallpaper is recognized as classic American literature, but opinions differ regarding the meaning of the story and the approach that should be used in order to grasp its deep significance…
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Download file to see previous pages... The language of the text appears to reflect typical speech patterns of a relatively wealthy and educated woman of that time, as is evident in the opening lines, written in the first person, which refer to antiquated concepts such as “ancestral halls” which have “something queer” about them (Gilman 1). The descriptive adjectives that the narrator uses to describe the setting are sensuous and exuberant, such as for example the “delicious” garden (Gilman 1) and the yellow wallpaper which has “one of those sprawling flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin” (Gilman 2). This sharp power of observation contrasts with the narrator’s vague and hesitant mention of things to do with her husband’s medical work, such as for example the phrase “So I take phosphates or phosphites – whichever it is”. The narrator describes without irony how her husband calls her “a blessed little goose,” and the combination of her diffidence and his patronizing tone reveals that there is a clear hierarchy within the marriage. John dominates his wife, and she accepts infantilizing epithets as if it they are entirely natural and normal. At times the narrator uses strongly moral or even biblical language, as for example when she describes the wall-paper’s patchy appearance which shows it has been picked off despite the fact that it “sticketh closer than a brother” (Gilman 3). As the story progresses, the wallpaper assumes an increasingly powerful control over the narrator, and this is revealed in the compulsion that she feels to “follow that pointless pattern” (Gilman 4) which is endlessly repeated on the wall. Strange female forms appear in the pattern, as if they are trapped behind bars, and the subject matter of the latter half of the story is taken over by musings on the meaning of the paper, and its shifting appearance as the light changes from day to night. The implications of this point of view are that the story represents the fate of women in general, imprisoned in marital obligation, and not allowed to escape into the fresh air of the world outside patriarchal dominance. As the wallpaper takes over the story, the narrator’s own personality retreats, so that in the end the subject matter is mainly the nocturnal musings of a woman who is losing her sense of self. The narratorial point of view does not change, since the whole story is told through the eyes of the main character, but as the story progresses the subject matter becomes more bizarre. The narrator is becoming one of the imprisoned women in the pattern, and the story shows the step by step descent into this pitiful condition. Clearly the narrator is unaware of the seriousness of this mental decline, since she makes light of the change in her daily routine, and imagines that she sees the woman in the paper creeping about outside the house. This is not a rational proposition, but it is presented as a factual observation by the narrator, and no doubt makes sense to her. The narrator persona shifts from being an apparently normal woman, who has a vivid imagination and likes writing stories, into an unreliable describer of events. The growing unreliability of the narrative voice makes the ending very difficult to interpret, because there appears to be an element of delusion or ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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