The Yellow Wallpaper and Victorian Values

Part One:
Victorian Values
Part Two:
Kate Chopin and The Story of an Hour
Part Three:
The Yellow Wallpaper
Concepts to know:
 Colonialism
 Victorian Era
 Foreshadowing
 Situational Irony
 “Angel in the House”
 Gender
Victoria’s Influence on American
• British Global Power and
• The locomotive (train engine)
• Telegraph
• Effects of Industrialization
• Cities as centers of industry/working
• The United States still closely linked
to British culture/values
• Severe division of class
Advances in technology
World War I, World War II
Media and wide-spread knowledge distribution
Angel in the House
“In these paintings, wives support
and soothe their husbands, or
else, watch over and educate
their children. [The wife is] an
earthly Madonna of everyday life
-- a saint of the hearth.”
~ Elizabeth Lee
Rosetti’s Girlhood of Mary Virgin
“The sorceress embraces
her witch side, using her
magic to the peril of her
male victims.”
Circe Offering the Cup to Ulysses
John William Waterhouse, 1849-1917
Well, What Did You Think of My Poems?"
by George Du Maurier. The Cornhill Magazine, Vol. 32 (1875),
facing page 233 — Illustration for Thomas Hardy's The Hand of
Ethelberta. Image scan, caption, and commentary by Philip V.
Lecture Three, Chopin
and Feminist
Approaches to
1850; died 1904 in St. Louis
Catholic upbringing; strong
maternal figures
Raised speaking French and English
Husband was very wealthy
Five sons and one daughter
 Wrote
two novels and about a hundred short
 Most of her fiction is set in Louisiana
 Published by Vogue and the Atlantic Monthly
 Well-read and capable of socializing in
various circles
 Husband died of malaria in 1882
the Civil War in St. Louis, a city where
residents supported both the Union and the
From 1867 to 1870 kept a "commonplace book"
in which she recorded diary entries
 Writing for her was a therapy against depression
Regionalism, Chopin’s “realism”:
The Story of an Hour
 Characters
 Setting
 Meaning
 Symbolism
 Tone
 Irony
 Louise
 Brently Mallard: husband of Louise
 Josephine: sister of Louise
 Richards: friend of Brently Mallard
Susan Cahill called the story "one of
feminism's sacred texts," and many readers
have since concluded that Kate Chopin's
sensitivity to what it sometimes feels like to
be a woman is on prominent display in this
work—as it is in The Awakening. Chopin's
often-celebrated yearning for freedom is also
on display here—as is her sense of ambiguity
and her complex way of seeing life. It's
typical of her to note that it is both "men and
women" who "believe they have a right to
impose a private will upon a fellow-creature."
Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper after she had a severe case
of postpartum depression
Essentially a response to her doctor, who tried to cure
through a “rest cure”
 Gilman
was a women’s rights activist in
the late 1800’s
 Used her fiction to raise feminist issues
and to bring about a change in their
 In The Yellow Wallpaper she tells a story
of a woman entrapped within the
confines of her marriage and her
expected roles as a woman and it is this
perhaps that causes the woman’s
“If a physician of high standing, and one’s own
husband assures friends and relative that there is
really nothing the matter with one but temporary
nervousness depression – a slight hysterical
tendency – what is one to do?... So I take
phosphates or phosphites – whichever it is, and
tonics, and journeys, and air, and exercise, and
am absolutely forbidden to “work” until I am well
Personally I disagree with their ideas”
 After
Gilman had written “The Yellow
Wallpaper” she decided to write an
explanation of her purpose or so-what
behind the story.
 She says that she based it on her own
personal experiences through this
disease and “it was not intended to drive
people crazy, but to save people from
being driven crazy, and it worked.”
(Gilman, “Why I wrote Yellow Wallpaper”)
 In
The Yellow Wallpaper, the author uses a
number of literary devices to illustrate
the oppression of women during the
Victorian era.
 To achieve her goal of expressing
feminist sentiment in The Yellow
Wallpaper, Gilman creates a Narrator
who is at once expressive about her
feelings but is also prone to devaluing
her own assessments.
 The
woman in the story is trapped, having to
act out the role expected of her
 She does not feel equipped for a life of being
a perpetual wife and mother
 Her stillness and stagnation cause her mind
to weaken and lose the insight it once had
 Is
this an instance of an unreliable narrator or
is it a ghost story?
 John, the
narrator’s husband, treats her
like a child
 Bars on the windows and the gate on the
stairs represent the lack of freedom she
has within her life and marriage.
 The
marital bed is nailed down to the
 The
woman trapped within the wallpaper
represents the Victorian women trapped
within their feminine roles unable to
break down the barriers of language to
be able to freely express themselves.
 However at the end of the story the
woman is liberated so there is hope that
through the use of language women
could one day be free of their constraints.
 Gilman
was later diagnosed with
incurable breast cancer and she killed
herself with an overdose of chloroform
rather then letting others be in charge of
her life.
 You
may want to watch this on You Tube:
 The Yellow Wallpaper PBS Masterpiece
Theater 1989 ... - YouTube