Point of View in The Yellow Wallpaper
Written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper introduces thematic concepts of longing, isolation and deprivation. Gilman combines several aspects of narration to enhance the richness of this short story. Moreover, Gilman’s structural prose defines the narrator’s changing perspectives through dynamic uses of various sentence structure lengths, diction, and the convoluted details of the human psyche. In an attempt to give meaning to an otherwise analytically frustrating story, Gilman introduces several time and space analogies wherein she consistently refers to daylight, sunlight and the moon’s phases. Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper depicts narration and point of view through literary techniques (i.e. diction) suggesting the slow progression into insanity and growing frustration that accompanies it. Gilman writes this story using several breaks signify different times the narrator has made an entry. Gilman’s constructs The Yellow Wallpaper through time and space separations depicting the interval between the initial beginnings towards the end. Gilman’s narrator is dominated by her husband John and regresses into her creativity which leads to the development of insanity. Thematically intertwined with point of view, the premise of this story becomes the liveliness of the wallpaper and its relation to the narrator, the aspect of individual alienation and the progression into insanity, which reinforce Gilman’s creative knowledge on the notion of individuality and the concern for equality.
Gilman’s narrator is an intriguing character because her prime concern is to continue the development of her creative mind; however, she remains confined in a mansion chiefly designed to serve as a miniature mental institution. Considering the manifested ideas of loneliness, the narrator remains one with the yellow wallpaper. The yellow wallpaper plays an interesting role in Gilman’s short story. For instance, the wallpaper establishes its own stages of meaning when at first the narrator states, “When you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide—plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions” (668) and the wallpaper becomes an allegory comparing all things foul with its presence. The wallpaper not only becomes this unearthly presence for the narrator but later transforms into asymbolic icon as the plot progresses. This is distinct when the narrator states: This wallpaper has a kind of sub-pattern in a different shade, a particularly irritating one, for you can only see it in certain lights, and not clearly then. But in the places where it isn’t faded and where the sun is just so—I can see a strange, provoking, formless sort of figure, that seems to skulk about behind that silly and conspicuous front design (670).
Elucidating The Yellow Wallpaper
The figurative elucidation of the wallpaper resides in the “…provoking, formless sort of figure” (670), for the wallpaper is not merely an inanimate metaphor with foul properties, but also its own character hiding behind the “unheard of contradictions” (688). It becomes a 0symbol as the story progresses in the sense that it is an object that is foul, intriguing and provoking. Comparatively, the narrator’s point of view is gravely altered as the stages of the wallpaper have an adverse affect on her judgment. The final change the yellow wallpaper undergoes is that of metonymic associations in which the narrator states, “At night in any kind of light, in twilight,candlelight, lamplight, and worst of all by moonlight, it becomes bars! The outside pattern I mean, and the woman behind it is as plain as can be” (674). The wallpaper becomes metonymic because the association regarding the narrator and the woman behind the enclosed wallpaper is depicted through “outrageous angles” (668). Therefore, the drawn association between the narrator’s state and that of the woman behind the wallpaper is displayed by the term “bars” (674) which the narrator clearly sees in the wallpaper as well as her own window. Gilman clearly establishes the affect of metonymy the wallpaper has on the narrator’s point of view and her concern regarding equality.
A further interesting thematic concept Gilman conveys is the notion of individual alienation and its effect on the human psyche. Historically, when this was written in 1892, there was a grave gender discrepancy which isclearly shown in Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper. Evidently, setting aside historical details, the narrator’s husband John states in a domineering tone, “‘There is nothing so dangerous, so fascinating, to a temperament like yours. It is a false and foolish fancy. Can you not trust me as a physician when I tell you so?’” (673). John’s quote signifies not only historical times were unsettling for women, but reinforces individual estrangement felt by the narrator with John’s oppressive presence. Similarly, the metonymic association of the yellow wallpaper mentioned earlier coincides directly with the psychological alteration of the narrator’s point of view and the reinforcement into individual alienation. Individual alienation is further conveyed with the room’s similarities to a correction facility containing barred windows and fixed beds. Furthermore, individual alienation is further emphasized with the narrator’s loss of identity as a mother figure and wife to Jennie, John’s housewife, taking over the narrator’s feminine attributes. Gilman establishes metaphorical representations of domination and oppression through the uses of daylight when the narrator reveals, “It is the same woman, I know, for she is always creeping, and most women do not creep by daylight” (675) which makes reference to mythological aspects of daylight being daylight time for men and the moon as the time for women. The narrator gives an explicit description of her daily routines when she states, “I do not sleep much at night, for it is so interesting to watch developments; but I sleep a good deal in the daytime” (674) defining the degrees of oppression women historically had to face. In addition, John also oppresses the narrator’s creative mind which further develops her alienated character. Gilman’s attempt to construct metaphorical representations regarding masculine and feminine qualities are evident when the narrator says, “Now why should that man have fainted” (678) in which Gilman’s emphasis is directly placed at masculine and feminine gender equalities.
The Content of The Yellow Wallpaper
Gilman’s prose and diction is patently fitting to satisfy the changing moods and behaviours of her narrator in The Yellow Wallpaper. Gilman’s short story applies the varying changes in sentence lengths and this becomes the basis for the mind of a frantic individual scribbling endlessly on paper. At the start of the story there is long elegant prose signifying the narrator’s control; for instance, when the narrator says, “It is very seldom that mere ordinary people like John and myself secure ancestral halls for the summer” (667) as compared to the developing tension and stress inhabiting the narrator when she says, “I cry at nothing, and cry most of the time” (671).This deliberate choice of elaborate sentence structure compared to the choppy sentences which follow later as the plot progresses is reminiscent to the maniacal details concerning the lines of the yellow wallpaper.Moreover, Gilman’s short story is constructed to expose the yellow wallpaper as a captivating timer counting down the narrator’s inevitable descent into madness. These stages are represented through Gilman’s initial comparison of the wallpaper as a metaphor, then symbol and finally a metonym. Moreover, the interplay between moonlight and daylight is carefully emphasized as the backbone to the yellow wallpaper’s essence as well asthe woman behind the bars. Gilman’s attempt to construct paranoia is marked by the narrator’s concern for the woman behind the wallpaper; hence, the point of view is gravely altered near the end of the story. The narrator’spoint of viewis gravely altered during her final uprising against her husband John as she finally takes a step into individuality, however does so in the process of acquiring insanity. Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper is a short story which establishes an interesting outlook of the first person narration form where the prime focus lies upon the narrator’s single-point perspective. Moreover, the complexity of this narration emphasizes a recurrence of important metaphors such as daylight, moonlight, and the moon’s phases. Furthermore, the most important analogy is the presence of the yellow wallpaper as it enacts traits similar to a metaphor, symbol and metonym. Comparatively, these figures of speech become the ground basis for the development of the narrator’s psyche and emotional condition which affect her point of view drastically.
A key concern in Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper is the aspect of individual alienation considering the imbalance of gender roles and the domineering affect of John’s presence resulting in the narrator’s helplessness.In addition, the symbolic interpretations of various aspects of the progression of insanity are clearly portrayed in the effects drawn clearly by the yellow wallpaper and symbolic-like sentence prose. Moreover, there is evidence which suggests the point of view and its progression into insanity mimics the changing tones of lines and diction. In conclusion, symbolically referring to aspects of the human psyche with an inanimate object such as a yellow wallpaper have lead the deconstruction of the narrator’s point of view to one that is free at the end yet has suffered emotional collapse and remains insane.