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Symbols and Symbolism in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper

Symbols and Symbolism in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper

Reflecting their role in society, women in literature are often portrayed in a position that is dominated by men. Especially in the nineteenth century, women were repressed and controlled by their husbands as well as other male influences. In “The Yellow WallPaper,” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the protagonist is oppressed and represents the effect of the oppression of women in society. This effect is created by the use of complex symbols such as the house, the window, and the wall-paper which facilitate her oppression as well as her self expression.

It is customary to find the symbol of the house as representing a secure place for a woman’s transformation and her release of self expression. However, in this story, the house is not her own and she does not want to be in it. She declares it is “haunted,” and that “there is something queer about it.” Although she acknowledges the beauty of the house and especially what surrounds it, she constantly goes back to her feeling that “there is something strange about the house.” Her impression is like a premonition for the transformation that takes place in herself while she is there. In this way the house still is the cocoon for her transformation. It does not take the form of the traditional symbol of security for the domestic activities of a woman, but it does allow for and contain her metamorphosis. The house also facilitates her release, accommodating her, her writing and her thoughts. These two activities evolve because of the fact that she is kept in the house.

One specific characteristic of the house that symbolizes not only her potential but also her trapped feeling is the window. Traditionally this symbol represents a view of possibilities, but now it also becomes a view to what she does not want to see. Through it she sees all that she could be and everything that she could have. But she says near the end, “I don’t like to look out of the windows even – there are so many of those creeping women, and they creep so fast.” She knows that she has to hide and lie low; she has to creep in order to be a part of society and she does not want to see all the other women who have to do the same because she knows they are a reflection of herself.

Effective Use of the First Person in First Confession

Effective Use of the First Person in First Confession

“I decided that, between one thing and another, I must have broken the whole ten commandments, all on account of that old woman, and so far as I could see, so long as she remained in the house I had no hope of ever doing anything else,” (page 189).

This quote from the text of “First Confession” by Frank O’Connor exquisitely shows which point of view O’Connor selected for his story. Frank O’Connor chose the first-person point of view to tell his tale. One can determine this by three factors: the use of the word “I”, the use of grammatical voice and the use of conveying the story through the characters. These three techniques are shown vividly throughout O’Connor’s novella.

The use of the word “I” in O’Connor’s short story is in the text continuously with an unquestionable presence. A prime example of the usage of “I” in O’Connor’s tale is first seen in the second paragraph as Jackie talks about his grandmother favoring Nora, his older sister, over him: “Nora, my sister, just sucked up to the old womanÖI was too honest, that was my trouble; and when I was playing around with Bill ConnellÖand saw my grandmother steering up the path with the jug of porter I was mortified. I made excuses not to let him into the house, because I could never be sure what she would be up to when we went in,” (page 188). The application of the word “I” is an obvious and well-known method of the first-person point of view, as well as using another compatible method such as grammatical voice.

Grammatical voice is a conventional technique of guiding the reader through the story using a first-person point of view. This is a…

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…s. The reader is also shown that Jackie’s mother dislikes her mother-in-law’s mannerisms. This use of conveying the story through the characters is another method that is primarily used in first-person point of view, conventionally for its simplicity and advantage of giving several details in a short amount of time.

O’Connor shows first-person point of view unremittingly in the short story “First Confession.” By his usage of the word “I,” O’Connor announces to the reader that he is writing in first-person, by using the method of grammatical voice O’Connor shows another technique of writing in first-person and, intertwined with grammatical voice, his conveyance of the story through the characters is his last usage of writing in the first-person point of view. These three applications of writing give the reader a sure perception of O’Connor’s point of view.

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