Charlotte Perkins Gilman- The Yellow Wall-paper

The main three characters that we see in “The Yellow Wall-paper are the narractor, her husband John and his sister Jennie who acts as a maid to their house. However at the conclusion of the story on page 1695 the narractor replies to the shocked look of her husband upon seeing her “creeping” in the room:

“I’ve got out at last… in spite of you and Jane”

Jane is not a character introduced formally the story. One explanation for this is that is a misstatement of Jennie. I would like to take this one step further and say that maybe Jane is the name of the narrator. Could she be saying that she got out at last, in spite of herself? Could she be saying that she is finally free of her marriage, her society and the efforts to repress her mind? Do you have any other explanations of who is being called to in this quote?

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2 Responses to Charlotte Perkins Gilman- The Yellow Wall-paper

  1. Eveon11 says:

    I think that this quote referrs to the narrator. In the beginning of The Yellow Wallpaper, her writing demonstrates that she can easily communicate with the other two people in the house, and also the readers. But as time goes on, she is less accessible to everyone, and I got the sense as a reader that I could no longer understand her or relate to her. That being said, it would almost make sense if this third character escaped from the narrator, because it would explain some of the disjointed behavior. The escapism tone would be heavy if this scenario were correct, but I’m curious as to how people would react to the story if they interpreted Jane being the narrator. I felt a strange sense of relief, because the final act of defiance almost seemed empowering. She was able to take a stand and choose her own freedom rather than accepting the roles as mother, wife, and well-behaved female citizen that she didn’t identify in. However, the mention of the rope at the end of the story indicate that she killed herself at the end? Or that she continued creeping around the room or the house forever? I guess I always imagined her escaping outside since the narrator earlier on in the piece seemed to talk longinly of being outdoors, but that assumption that the character made it outside fits into my freeing/empowering idea of the story. I can also see how this ending would be very depressing to readers – and I wonder whether or not they see the character to be mentally sick, or having committed suicide, etc. Are we happy for this character at the end? Did she truly triumph her obsticles?

  2. tyler20289 says:

    I certainly believe that “Jane” is the narrator, although I think that when she says, “I’ve got out at last… in spite of you and Jane,” the narrator is referring to the liberation of her creative, intellectual side. Jane is the motherly women of the domestic sphere that has repulsed the narrator’s slip away from domesticity and character of proper womanhood at the time.

    It is interesting to consider what the narrator becomes at the end of the novel. Gilman herself says that the story was meant to speak out against the rest-cure and the perception of women as hysterical during the time period she was writing in. This suggests that Gilman’s narrator does become crazy, and may have in fact killed herself. That said, I think that Gilman may have left this part somewhat open to interpretation to allow the writer to observe the way that society may view a women’s mental/intellectual liberation from lamed domesticity. Do we ultimately assume that the narrator is crazy because that is the way that her husband and other people of the era perceive someone like herself? There is certainly still a great deal of stigmatization against the narrator being perceived in this light (her husband is constantly telling her to stop journaling and limit her thinking), and maybe that has driven her to madness, but I think that if we view her as mad, the oppression of her voice and creative expression is the seed of it.

    Another thing I found interesting is the fact that Gilman (a women) wrote the story. In that act in itself, Gilman is disproving the idea that women’s minds are too weak or ill-suited for intellectual exploits. This in itself lends my own view toward one of a women who feels mentally free and lucid (at least in her own mind), but may be perceived otherwise by those around her.

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