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Essay on The Yellow Wallpaper: Imprisoned

Imprisoned in The Yellow Wallpaper

As man developed more complex social systems, society placed more emphasis of childbearing. Over time, motherhood was raised to the status of “saintly”. This was certainly true in western cultures during the late 19th/early 20th century. Charlotte Perkins Gilman did not agree with the image of motherhood that society proposed to its members at the time. “Arguably ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ reveals women’s frustration in a culture that seemingly glorifies motherhood while it actually relegates women to nursery-prisons” (Bauer 65). Among the many other social commentaries contained within this story, is the symbolic use of the nursery as a prison for the main character.

From the very beginning the room that is called a nursery brings to mind that of a prison cell or torture chamber. First we learn that outside the house there are locking gates, and the room itself contains barred windows and rings on the walls. The paper is stripped off all around the bed, as far as is reachable, almost as if someone had been tied to the bed with nothing else to do. A jail-like yellow is the color of the walls, which brings to mind a basement full of convicts rather than a vacation house. I think that this image of the nursery as a holding cell is first an analogy for the narrator’s feelings of being imprisoned and hidden away by her husband. When she repeatedly asks John to take her away, he refuses with different excuses every time. Either their lease will almost be up, or the other room does not have enough space, etc. Even the simple request to have the paper changed is ignored: “He said that after the wall-paper was changed it would be the heavy bedstead, and then the barred windows, and the…

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…r members of the animal kingdom, humans have not evolved any longer with such strong maternal instinct. Nurseries probably trapped and imprisoned many a young mother who listened to society and did what she thought she was supposed to. And once they got there, maybe they realized it was not how they wanted to live their life. Yet, they could not abandon their families and children, and so they were trapped by the cradle, the toys, the bottles, the nursery.

Works Cited

Bauer, Dale, ed. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, From Women and Economics, “Think Husbands Aren’t Mainstays,” “Dr. Clair’s Place,” From The Living of Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Gilman 317-18.

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. From The Living of Charlotte Perkins Gillman. Gilman 334-44.

– – -. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” 1892. Ed. Dale M. Bauer. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1998. 41-59.

The Psychological Labyrinth in Owl Creek Bridge, Yellow Wallpaper, and Garden of Forking Paths

The Psychological Labyrinth in Owl Creek Bridge, Yellow Wallpaper, and Garden of Forking Paths

For millennia, the labyrinth has been used as a sacred tool for spiritual enlightenment.

Sometimes called a “divine imprint” because of its prevalence combined with its unknown origin,

the labyrinth provides a “transcendent experience of connection and clarity” (“What is a Laby-

rinth”) through the act of walking the winding paths to its center. Unlike a maze, which has dead

ends and trick turns, the labyrinth has only a single path leading to and from the center; the

principle of the labyrinth is such that a person must traverse every inch of space before reaching

his/her goal. In this way, the labyrinth subverts the logical aspect of the mind (normally dominant)

and enables the individual to enter a state of mental calmness, allowing him or her to experience

the spiritual benefits of a sort of walking meditation.

Probably the most famous historical labyrinth is the one constructed by Daedalus to house

the Minotaur in classical mythology. In that case, according to Ovid, Daedalus “built a house in

which he confused the usual passages and deceived the eye with a conflicting maze of various

wandering paths (“Ariadne’s Thread”). There is no mention of a specific shape for this “house,”

but traditionally most such mazes have been made in a circular formation. Another famous laby-

rinth is built into the floor of the cathedral at Chartres; the fact that the same design has been

found on coins minted at Cnossus gives rise to the theory that it may be connected to the laby-

rinth of Daedalus and the Mi…

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…Garden of Forking Paths.» The Story and its Writer.

Ed. Ann Charters. Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin’s Press, 1995. 1391-1392.

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” The Story and its Writer. Ed. Ann Charters.

Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin’s Press, 1995.531-542.

Green, Edward J. “Labyrinth.”

(accessed 11/21/99).

Irwin, John T. “A Clew to a Clue: Locked Rooms and Labyrinths in Poe and Borges.”

MasterFILE Premier database from Raritan, Spring 91, Vol.10 Issue 4. <… /


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