The late eighteen-hundreds represented a period of oppression for women and their rights to individual freedom and happiness. Women were expected to care for the home and the children, and to obey the will of their husbands. They were discouraged from particpating in the intelectual arena, and were frowned upon if they expressed independant opinions or desires. Charlotte Perkins Gilman experienced these things on a personal level and from her experiences with the feminist movement she developed an opinion about culture s repression of women s independence. In her short story entitled The Yellow Wallpaper , Gilman examines society s imprisonment of women s freedom and the stifuling of their expression.
We are introduced to the speaker as a woman who has been taken by her husband John, to a large estate for rest from her condition . John, who is a physican, has diagnosed his wife with a nervous depression- a slight hysterical tendancy (p.558), which by today s standards whould be related to a depressive disorder. In the time period which the story is set, the typical cure for such a condition was rest, and removal from any sort of exciting stimuli, such as writing, reading or socializing. Despite doctor s orders, the speaker feels that some excitement and change would make her feel better but is barred from doing so by him none the less. For three months she is expected to rest up in the large mansion, which according to her husband, has been abandoned and involved in legal trouble. As she describes the estate, however, we come to see that she has been lied to about its usage in the past.
The speaker is told by her husband that her bedroom is to be the room where an old nursury used to be. Her discription of the metal bars on the windows and the bolted down bed, however, suggest it was a place where mental patients were kept. She is especially horrified of the wallpaper and describes the color as repelent, almost revolting: a smouldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow turning sunlight. (p.559). Her husband refuses to let her change the wallpaper and tells her that someone with her condition should not give into such fancies .