Discussion Questions – Gilman’s “The Yellow Wall-paper”
“The Yellow Wall-paper” is based upon Charlotte Parker Gilman’s own experiences dealing with doctors who attempted to stifle her activity and creativity as they treated her for nervous breakdowns. Gilman is famous for her work on behalf of the woman’s suffrage movement in the U.S., and in all her writing, she seeks to examine and expose all of the social forces serving to imprison women. In this sense, she can be considered a naturalistic writer.
1. How does Gilman evoke the imagery of “imprisonment” within the “house” throughout the story? Find 2 passages that support your answer.
1a. How is the narrator in “prison?” What are the powerful forces arrayed against her? Find 2 passages that support your answer.
(Hint: Think about the social forces that held women down at this time in U.S. history. Male dominated society and discrimination against women are social forces. Also keep in mind that there were no women doctors at that time. No medical fields, like gynecology, existed at that time. So the medical profession itself is a social force against women.)
2. Gilman implies that the husband and the doctors who are trying to help the narrator are encouraging the narrator’s mental instability. How can this be the case? Find 2 passages that support your answer.
3. Who is the woman “in” the wallpaper? Use 2 passages to support your answer. (Hint: the other woman is not real, she’s imaginary.)