Article: Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar from Keesey's Context for Criticism
Date: 19 March 2009
A lot of poetry and literature have stressed the concept of male authority and its effects upon women. Gilbert and Gubar stated that "houses were primary symbols of female imprisonment" (Keesey 260) which shows that women were being imprisoned. Most males, in early history, provided the money for shelter, food, and necessities. The concept of females being related to houses can be seen through an interdisciplinary approach. Anne Sexton, a 20th century author, wrote a poem entitled "The Room of My Life." This poem will be distributed at the beginning of my presentation because it displays a similar approach to the isolation of women.
Gilbert and Gubar also present three interesting terms called anorexia agoraphobia, and claustrophobia. These terms are considered attempts of "suicidal self-starvation" (260) and "social confinement" (260) which women who are imprisoned usually have.
Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, discusses the effects of "a haunted ancestral mansion" (260) which can be related directly to The Yellow Wallpaper. The second sentence in The Yellow Wallpaper states "A colonial mansion, a hereditary estate, I would say a haunted house" (Gilman 531) which shows a correlation of female insanity from the very start.
Gilbert and Gubar state a "distinction between metaphysical and metaphorical" (260) which separate male and female authors. There are different metaphysics related to male and female authors because male authors begin "recording their own distinctively female experience, then define their own lives" (261). This statement moves directly into my next point of female authors and their description of female inferiority. Gilbert and Gubar stated "women seem forced to live more intimately with the metaphors they have created to solve the "problem" of their fall" (261). So, why did Charlotte Perkins Gilman write The Yellow Wallpaper? Was it to explain the "fall of women" or was it to show the pain that she was living with? We may never know because this would involve author intent, but we can infer that Gilman was writing about a woman who had no control and gradually lost her insanity.
Gilbert and Gubar mention Gaston Bachelard, a critic, who "shows the ways in which houses, nests, shells, and wardrobes are in us as much as we are in them" (261). After reading this, I immediately thought about when women have children. What is the location of where children are born? I bet you are thinking hospitals or houses, in previous history, but this is another connection of women being related to houses or structures.
We are all thinking about women being related to houses, so is this born within females? Would you agree if I said that most female children play with doll houses? I would think so and this may involve psychology because female children play with doll houses, marry to care for a house, and, usually, die in a house. Wow, this is beginning to connect. In addition, Gilbert and Gubar state that Erikson said that "a female's womb is a child's first and most satisfying house" (261). So females are born in houses (wombs) and have connections with houses throughout there entire lives.
Let's talk about the male culture now because most men in early history, to the present, owned the home. For example, the male's name is usually first and then the female's name. Gilbert and Gubar also stated "to believe that as a house she is herself owned by a man" (260). Since I have been talking so much about women and houses, I think that we should look at a painting of women in the 17th century as an example. Bartolomé Esteban Murillo painted "Two Women at a Window" which quickly took my attention because the women are in a house. Many references can be made about women in houses, but why has this reference been so vivid in paintings and literature?
Simone de Beauvoir stated "the confinement of pregnancy replicates the confinement of society" (261). This statement is interesting because it does not specifically say females are isolated, but it implies a unified gender approach which includes males and females.
Now let's move onto the text of The Yellow Wallpaper and see what is really going on. Charlotte Perkins Gilman was "treated for a similar problem" (262) which probably would have been some type of mental illness. So, is this why she wrote the text? But wait, Gilbert and Gubar stated that Perkins was "treated by S. Weir Mitchell, a famous "nerve specialist" (262). This man was not only a doctor, but an author. The link for him lists all of the books that he published.
So, I bet you don't know what a medical paternalistic physician is? Well, this is my own blog that I wrote about when reading Gilbert and Gubar initially. It links to what a paternalistic physician is and offers my insight about this topic. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defined paternalism as "the interference of a state or an individual with another person, against their will, and justified by a claim that the person interfered with will be better off or protected from harm" (Dworkin 2005). This reminded me of what happened to the narrator in The Yellow Wallpaper.
As a result of women being entrapped within a house, we can begin to connect the ideas of what really happened. Gilbert and Gubar referred the sickness with "bars, paper, figure, and haunt" (262) which can be related to someone who is losing insanity or has been excluded from society for a long time. While reading these terms from the essay, I quickly thought of the movie production called "The Grudge" where a woman (deceased) has been contained within a house for years and a new family moves into it. After a while, this creature or person with has lost their insanity begins to try to get the people who are in the house. This movie can be related to the narrator in The Yellow Wallpaper because both characters are female and, both, have been isolated and the result is illness and a look of "a monster" (262).
It seems that the more I relate different authors, movies, or facts, then the more everything seems to fit together. Finally, since the narrator has been isolated because of John, there seems to be a twist at the end. John faints when he sees her and this can be seen as the narrator proving that she is only becoming insane because of him.
Click here for the course web page devoted to March 26, 2009.
MLA Works Cited
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wallpaper. Contexts for Criticism. Ed. Donald Keesey. New York: McGraw, 2003. 531-38.
Sexton, Anne. "The Room of My Life." The Complete Poms of Anne Sexton. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1981. Poetry Foundation. 2009. 15 March 2009. .
Murillo, Bartolomé Esteban. "Two Women at a Window." National Gallery of Art. 2009. 15 March 2009. .
NNDB: tracking the entire world. "Mitchell, S. Wier." 2009. 15 March 2009. .
Other references include wikipedia, thefreedictionary.com, and Online encyclopedia