Critical Analysis Essay on “The Yellow Wallpaper”

Posted on April 5, 2020

Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Champion of Women’s Rights and Literary Luminary Behind “The Yellow Wallpaper” 

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the brilliant mind behind “The Yellow Wallpaper,” was an American writer, social critic, and advocate for women’s rights. Born on July 3, 1860, in Hartford, Connecticut, she faced numerous challenges throughout her life, which fueled her passion for addressing social and gender inequalities. Gilman’s own experiences with postpartum depression and the oppressive norms of her time heavily influenced her writings. 

She was a prominent figure in the feminist movement and believed in the need for women’s economic independence and equal rights. Her works, including novels, essays, and short stories, provided a powerful voice for women and challenged the traditional roles imposed on them by society. Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s legacy lives on through her thought-provoking literature, which continues to inspire readers to question social norms and strive for a more just and equal world.

About the “Yellow Wallpaper”

“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a captivating and thought-provoking short story written. The narrative, first published in 1892, revolves around a woman’s descent into madness and her harrowing experiences while being trapped within a room adorned with yellow wallpaper. The theme of the story delves into the impact of societal constraints on women’s mental health during the late 19th century.

In “The Yellow Wallpaper,”, Gilman skillfully employs the yellow wallpaper as a symbolic representation of the protagonist’s deteriorating mental state. The wallpaper becomes a metaphor for the oppressive and patriarchal society that restrains her, leading to her slow unraveling and eventual madness.

This tale is essential reading for various reasons. Firstly, it sheds light on the societal norms and beliefs that negatively affected women’s mental health during that era. By exploring the protagonist’s mind, readers can gain empathy and understanding of the struggles faced by women of that time. 

Secondly, the story serves as a cautionary reminder of the consequences of ignoring mental health issues. It emphasizes the importance of addressing mental well-being and seeking help when needed. Also, “The Yellow Wallpaper” stands as a significant work of feminist literature, advocating for women’s rights and challenging traditional gender roles. Gilman’s bold portrayal of the wallpaper character mirrors the silent suffering of women under oppressive circumstances. To write a compelling critical essay, it is crucial to analyze “The Yellow Wallpaper” in-depth, exploring its themes and literary techniques

Critical Analysis Essay on “The Yellow Wallpaper”

“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a popular literary piece for critical analysis, especially in women’s gender studies. It focuses on several inequalities in the relation between John and his wife. It was published for the first time in 1892 in a New England magazine and is considered to be one of the earliest and essential feminist literary pieces in America. The story illustrates the physical as well as the mental deterioration of women during the 19 century due to a medically prescribed treatment of being allowed to do nothing. Gilman created a very effective fictional narrative based on her personal experience with depression, and this had a strong impact on other women. This story was written to condemn the sexual politics, which make the medical treatment prescribed possible.

The story is critically acclaimed because it brings into focus the unequal relationship the males and females in the society. The male gender is perceived to dominate society while the female gender is not given the space to make decisions independently of men. This is seen in the instances when John belittles his wife’s creative endeavors. John does not respect his wife, and so he treats her like one of his children by calling her a little girl.

This makes the wife dislike her house. To her, the environment seems too isolated, making her unhappy. The story portrays women in Western society as deprived of their rights. Instead, they are treated like objects or men’s possessions. They have nowhere to exercise their personal freedoms, and they feel belittled by the male counterparts. For instance, John keeps on dismissing his wife’s thoughts and opinions. He believes that his wife should depend solely on him for almost everything. This is why this story has enjoyed such popularity, mostly by women who feel that they deserve a better place in the society, that they need space to exercise their creativity and productivity. Women feel they have strong potential and the ability to do anything, just like men do, and they should not depend on men for everything. Rather, they should depend on men as much as men depend on women.

Women should have their decisions respected, and no one should dismiss their ideas. Instead, ideas should be shared and debated, regardless of gender. Moreover, men should support women as equals rather than belittle them.

In Gilman’s story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” John acts as the mirror through which women are viewed negatively in the society, a society in which women are not perceived to be full citizens. They are not supposed to be anywhere near the political arena or in the public eye. Instead, they should remain in their homes. This view has led to women fighting for their rights through creating women movements to fight for their place in the society.

Tips on Writing a Critical Essay over a Literary Piece

First, it is important to understand that a critical essay is not a criticism of the literary piece or of its author. It is your reaction or response to the piece. When you know how to get the job done properly, you have an opportunity to express your thoughts and provide an analysis of any literary piece, including the ones like “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Your analysis essay not only shows the level of your writing skills, but also reveals if you’re well aware of the written piece.

If you want to learn to write a quality analysis essay, ensure to check and follow these tips – a short guide containing useful information about how to deal with the literary analysis.

Tips for reading and analyzing the literary piece

  • Begin by reading the piece several times, if possible. Highlight and make notes on anything that captures your attention. That could be a phrase, a character’s thought or action, or an event.
  • Make sure to take notes as you go. Underline or circle what you know should be placed into the essay.
  • Do not hesitate to approach your college tutor to ask for an explanation of the issues that aren’t clear.

Tips for conducting critical analysis

  • In case with the critical analysis essay, it’s important to review all literary terms that were possibly mentioned in the essay. Wherever the terms occur, you will have to read up them in the books, vocabularies, or your textbook. To know more about the existing terms, ensure to co-work with the academic experts of an essay service. They know the field of literature from A to Z.
  • Don’t skip reading the literature piece more than once. Or, in case you lack time for it, make sure to re-read the sections that, you believe, are important to your essay.
  • Taking notes in the margins is a must. Come up with new questions. Flag passages or pages that are relevant to your topic and might be interesting to include in the text later. Then analyze why that interests you. What is the significance? What is the writer trying to achieve? Knowing the writer’s background and the social or historical time period in which a story takes place is helpful in understanding the significance of characters or story events.

Tips for writing the critical analysis essay

  • Develop your paper thesis statement. Сreate a thesis statement that reflects your opinion about some aspect of the literary piece. Next, utilize evidence from the piece to support your opinion. It is important to produce the main thesis statement in order to show why your arguments are crucial, how they connect to the thoughts and ideas of the novel or book author.
  • Create an intro. It’s the first paragraph of your critical analysis essay. It’s better to start it in a creative way to hook your readers and make them wonder what is going to happen next. The introductory sections is usually short, but it should work well as an attention-grabber and inform your readers of what you’re talking about in the body part.
  • The body section goes right after the introduction. It represents your ideas about the poem, book, or novel that you’ve analyzed. Besides, you place your statements, explanations, evidence, and reflections within the body – anything required to support your statements.
  • The conclusion ends up your critical analysis essay. It is the final section of your work, and it serves to make it perfect and logically complete. Ensure to demonstrate how your work is connected to the literary piece under analysis, as well as how it reflects the ideas of the author and the plot.
  • Finally, organize your writing in a logical fashion. Do not retell the story or present details in chronological order. Assume your reader knows the literary piece being discussed and is interested in your opinion and how you support it.
  • Think about the content of your critical analysis essay. The point here is that there is no standard set of paragraphs that your piece should comprise. It’s up to you to decide how many sections should be presented (also, ensure you know the set of requirements given by the tutor). When you’re analyzing a poem, your critical analysis essay will be based on one content, and when it is a novel that you work with, you’ll have to consider a completely different approach. What is more, the length of the critical analysis essay may also differ from case to case.

Despite the type of literature, the most standard list of points that a student should include in the critical analysis essay are here:

  • Genre/type of the literature piece.
  • Analysis of the characters.
  • Analysis of the plot, key ideas.
  • Review of the theme.
  • Description of symbolism traces in the work.
  • Writing style, content.

The final argument that you make in your critical analysis essay must be both – effective and strong. Thus, you can’t make your concluding part longer than the body. End up your critical analysis essay with a few sentences retelling the main idea of the project and letting your readers know what your attitude to the topic is.

Critical Analysis Essay


Some More Important Tips on “Yellow Wallpaper’ Analysis

In addition to the essential tips mentioned earlier, here are some more valuable pointers to consider when writing yellow wallpaper analysis:

  1. Engage with secondary sources. To bolster your analysis and provide more depth to your arguments, consult scholarly articles, books, or other critical analyses related to the literary piece you are examining. This will demonstrate your understanding of the broader context and existing discussions around the work.
  2. Use quotations wisely. Incorporate quotations from the literary piece to support your interpretations and insights. However, be selective and use only the most impactful and relevant quotes. Ensure that you properly cite the sources to avoid any issues of plagiarism.
  3. Analyze literary devices. Pay close attention to the use of literary devices in the piece, such as imagery, metaphors, similes, foreshadowing, and irony. Discuss how these elements contribute to the overall meaning and impact of the work.
  4. Consider the author’s intent. Try to explore the author’s intentions and motivations behind writing the piece. Look for clues in the author’s background, historical context, and other works to gain a deeper understanding of their artistic choices.
  5. Address counterarguments. Acknowledge and address potential counterarguments to your analysis. This shows that you have critically examined various perspectives and strengthens your position.
  6. Proofread and edit. After completing your critical essay, take the time to proofread it carefully. Check for grammatical errors, typos, and clarity of expression. Editing is crucial to ensure that your ideas are presented coherently and persuasively.
  7. Seek feedback. If possible, have someone else review your essay and provide feedback. Fresh eyes can catch issues or offer suggestions that you might have overlooked.
  8. Stay objective. While a critical essay represents your viewpoint, maintain objectivity in your analysis. Avoid letting personal biases or emotions cloud your judgment.
  9. Avoid summary. Remember that a critical essay is not a plot summary. While it is acceptable to provide some context, your focus should be on analyzing and interpreting the literary piece.
  10. Practice and iterate. Writing a compelling critical essay takes practice. Don’t be discouraged by initial drafts; embrace the revision process and continue refining your analysis to make it more compelling and well-articulated.

Remember, the goal of a critical essay is to delve into the depths of the literary piece, explore its nuances, and provide thoughtful interpretations. By following these tips and refining your writing skills, you can create an engaging and insightful critical essay that showcases your understanding of the literary work.

Pro tip

Using secondary sources for your literary analysis significantly boosts the depth of the research. For instance, when you analyze “Yellow Wallpaper,” consider checking on classic feminist literature, such as Little Women by Louisa May Alcott or The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir.

Important Aspects for Discussion in “The Yellow Wallpaper”

  1. Yellow wallpaper theme. The primary theme of the yellow wallpaper revolves around the impact of societal constraints on women’s mental health during the late 19th century. It explores the protagonist’s descent into madness as she grapples with her stifled identity and the oppressive norms of her time.
  2. Yellow wallpaper symbolism. The yellow wallpaper in the room becomes a powerful symbol representing the protagonist’s deteriorating mental state. Its changing patterns and the woman trapped within it mirror the narrator’s own sense of entrapment and loss of self.
  3. The woman in the wallpaper. The mysterious figure the protagonist sees within the wallpaper holds significant symbolic meaning. She represents the narrator’s repressed desires, ambitions, and the potential consequences of resisting societal norms.
  4. The yellow wallpaper character analysis. The unnamed protagonist’s character development is essential to understanding her journey from initial unease to complete madness. Analyzing her thoughts, emotions, and actions reveals the impact of her environment on her mental well-being.
  5. Analysis of the yellow wallpaper. Exploring the story’s literary elements, such as imagery, foreshadowing, and tone, helps uncover the deeper layers of meaning embedded in the narrative.
  6. Gender roles and patriarchy. Discussing the portrayal of gender roles during that era and how the story reflects the limited opportunities and stifling expectations imposed on women.
  7. Mental health stigma. Analyzing the societal attitudes toward mental health during the 19th century and how they contributed to the protagonist’s isolation and deterioration.
  8. Feminism and women’s rights. Examining the story’s feminist undertones and how it advocates for women’s autonomy and the need to challenge patriarchal norms.
  9. A yellow wallpaper summary. Providing a concise summary of the plot and its key events to facilitate further discussions.
  10. Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s intentions. Investigating the author’s background and her own experiences with mental health, postpartum depression, and societal expectations to understand her purpose in writing the story.
  11. The impact of confinement. Delving into the effects of physical and psychological confinement on the human mind and its relevance to the protagonist’s experiences.
  12. The narrator’s unreliability. Considering the unreliability of the narrator’s perspective and how it affects the readers’ interpretation of events.
  13. Imprisonment and freedom. Exploring the concept of freedom, both physical and psychological, and how it contrasts with the narrator’s entrapment in the room with a yellow wallpaper.

For a comprehensive understanding of the story, read both “The Yellow Wallpaper” summary and analysis to grasp its key elements and underlying meanings.

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