Feminism, Psychology & The Yellow Wallpaper.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper is rich with symbolism that encapsulates female oppression in a male dominated world. Loralee MacPike's article "Environment as Psychopathological Symbolism in The Yellow Wallpaper" speaks of three images that rightfully represent that fact.
These symbols create the perfect landscape for a feminist and psychological reading of the short story The Yellow Wallpaper. The theoretical orientation of this article is implicitly stated, whereas MacPike does not blatantly come out and say that it is a feminist and psychological reading. Instead, MacPike's article illustrates the symbolism of specific attributes of the narrator's room, a former nursery "whose major features are ancient yellow wallpaper, bars on the windows and a huge bedstead nailed to the floor" (MacPike, 137) and proves, by using textual evidence, that they symbolize patriarchal domination which causes the narrator's neuroses.
One of the first problems in The Yellow Wallpaper that the reader stumbles upon, and one that MacPike slightly touches upon, is the fact that when the narrator falls "ill" she is told that she is "absolutely forbidden to work" (Gilman, 1). Work gives a woman a sense of feminist ideas. It makes her her own person and able to rely upon herself. By having her cease all work a man can get a woman back under his control. She becomes an idle figure and a pawn in a patriarchal society. The aforementioned is the basis for MacPike's argument that story is a "study of social degeneration into madness" (MacPike, 137) or, in other words, because of the narrator's lack of freedom and adulthood, she has no choice but to act childlike, and therefore begins her descent into insanity. The following is the symbolism that she picks out to represent the ideas of the dominant male ideology of the time.
After falling "ill" she moves into a colonial mansion in the country.