The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and The Mark on the Wall by Virginia Woolf, are two short stories that share the theme of feminism. Feminism is the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men(Houghton). In The Yellow Wallpaper, the narrator is suffering from post-partum depression. She isn’t even allowed to see her child. Her husband is a doctor, and he keeps assuring her that she is getting better. He basically belittles both her illness and her thoughts.
Her treatment requires that she do almost nothing active, and she is especially forbidden from working and writing. She feels that activity, freedom, and interesting work would help her condition and reveals that she has begun her secret journal in order to release her thoughts(Perkins Gilman 113-126). The narrator is fixated on the wallpaper, she describes it as revolting. She begins to focus on the pattern in the wallpaper. The sub-pattern now clearly resembles a woman who is trying to get out from behind the main pattern.
The narrator sees her shaking the bars at night and creeping around during the day, when the woman is able to escape briefly. The narrator mentions that she, too, creeps around at times. She suspects that John and Jennie are aware of her obsession, and she resolves to destroy the paper once and for all, peeling much of it off during the night. The next day she manages to be alone and goes into something of a frenzy, biting and tearing at the paper in order to free the trapped woman, whom she sees struggling from inside the pattern(Perkins Gilman 113-126).
By the end, the narrator is hopelessly insane, convinced that there are many creeping women around and that she herself has come out of the wallpaper and that she herself is the trapped woman(Perkins Gilman 113-126). Gilman uses The Yellow Wallpaper to show the position of women within the institution of marriage. Gilman describes how women were second class citizens compared to their husbands. Women of this time did what they were told and listened to their husbands every whim. The story reveals that this gender division had the effect of keeping women in a childish state of ignorance and preventing their full development.
John’s assumption of his own superior wisdom and maturity leads him to misjudge, patronize, and dominate his wife. John believed that he knew what was best for his wife because he was both her husband and doctor. The narrator is reduced to acting like a defenseless child, unable to stand up for herself without seeming unreasonable or disloyal. The narrator has no say in even the smallest details of her life, and she retreats into her obsessive fantasy, the only place she can retain some control and exercise the power of her mind(Perkins Gilman 113-126).