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Stifled Women in Yellow Wallpaper, Rappaccini’s Daughter, and Beloved

Stifled Women in The Yellow Wallpaper, Rappaccini’s Daughter, and Beloved

A connection can be drawn among the stories listed above regarding women who live as prisoners. Beatrice, of Rappaccini’s Daughter, is confined to a garden because of her father’s love of science, and she becomes the pawn to several men’s egos. The woman of The Yellow Wallpaper is trapped by her own family’s idea of how she should conduct herself, because her mood and habit of writing are not “normal” to them. Sethe, of Beloved, carries the burden of her past and also the past of all slaves. She is unwelcome in her community and a prisoner in her own home, where she is forced to confront these memories of slavery. All three of these women are viewed by society as crazy, evil, or both. The “prisons” in which these women live are constructed by their family, their history, or even themselves.

Beatrice’s prison is probably the most obvious. Her father caused her to be poisonous and dependant upon a poisonous flower. As a result, she was confined to the garden. There are other, less apparent entanglements which Beatrice encountered. To the outside world, she was often misunderstood. Giovanni, who was her only real link to the outside world, was constantly in a state of confusion regarding Beatrice. He knew not whether she is an angel or a demon. In the end, he was convinced that she was purely evil, and much to her dismay, he betrays her. Due to her father’s abnormal use of her as an experiment, these misunderstandings by the outside world were inevitable for Beatrice. Luedtke states, “Is Beatrice poisonous, sexual, or demonic? Or pure, spiritual, and angelic. She is both. It is for Giovanni to solve the riddle.”(177) However, Giovanni w…

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…iteracy and the Death of the Narrative in Hawthorne’s ‘The Birthmark’.” ATQ 9.4 (1995): 269-82.

Stallman, Laura. Survey of Criticism of ‘Rappaccini’s Daughter’ by Nathaniel Hawthorne {with class response and discussion}. 29 Many 2000 .

Stoehr, Taylor. Hawthorne’s Mad Scientists. Hamden: Shoe String Press, 1978. Weinstein, Cindy. “The Invisible Hand Made Visible: ‘The Birthmark’.” Nineteenth Century Literature 48 (1993): 44-73.

Haney-Peritz, Janice. “Monumental feminism and literature’s ancestral house: Another look at The Yellow Wallpaper”. Women’s Studies. 12:2 (1986): 113-128.

Luedtke, Luther. Nathaniel Hawthorne and the Romance of the Orient.Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989.

Schmudde, Carol. “The Haunting of 124.” African American Review.26:3(1992): 409-415.

Rewriting The Yellow Wallpaper

Rewriting “The Yellow Wallpaper”

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Charlotte Perkins Gilman rank as two of the most outstanding champions of women’s rights who were active during the nineteenth century. Both professed a deep and personal faith and both were wise enough and secure enough to develop their own ideas and relationship with their creator. In 1895 Stanton published The Woman’s Bible, her personal assault on organized religion’s strangle-hold on the women of the world. Gilman published her short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” in 1892. She wrote the story, she said, “to save people from being driven crazy” (Golden 52). The heroine of “The Yellow Wallpaper” finds her only escape from the oppression of a condescending spouse is a headlong descent into madness.

Stanton and Gilman met at least once, about 1896 according to Gilman’s autobiography. “Of the many people I met during these years I was particularly impressed by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. To have been with her . . . seemed to establish connection with a splendid period of real heroism” (Gilman 216). Perhaps if the philosophies of these two great women were to come together, at the perfect moment, they would possess the potential to save the heroine of “The Yellow Wallpaper.” The following scenario might prove feasible.


An Obstacle

Charlotte Perkins Gilman l

I was climbing up a mountain-path

With many things to do,

Important business of my own,

And other people’s too,

When I ran against a Prejudice

That quite cut off my view.


The Yellow Wallpaper

by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

amended, with apologies,

by Margaret A. Stanton


The heroine of “The Yellow Wallpaper”…

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… Elizabeth Cady Stanton/ Susan B. Anthony: Correspondence, Writings, Speeches. Schocken Books, NY: 1981.

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins, The Living of Charlotte Perkins Gilman. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison: 1990.

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins, “The Yellow Wallpaper” The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Second Edition. Gen. Ed. Paul Lauter. D. C. Heath and Co., Lexington, MA: 1994.

Golden, Catherine, ed. The Captive Imagination: A Casebook on The Yellow Wallpaper . The Feminist Press at The City University of NY: 1992.

Stanton, Elizabeth Cady. The Woman’s Bible. NY European Pub. Co.: 1895-98. Northeastern U. P., Boston: 1993.


1 The poem “An Obstacle” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is used as an epigraph by Catherine Golden, ed. The Captive Imagination: A Casebook on The Yellow Wallpaper (The Feminist Press: NY City UP, 1992) vii.

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