The majority of works written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman were written as "forceful statements of her opinions on women's need for economic independence and social equality" (151). However, the one story that is considered her artistic masterpiece greatly deviates from her typical fiction. This story, entitled "The Yellow Wallpaper," is a not a feminist statement, but a true work of art; merely an artist using her talent. Current feminist critics have come up with a profusion of in-depth views and symbolism that have altered the way this work is read. After a careful rereading of The "Yellow Wallpaper," it becomes clear that while this is a work of fiction, it is also laced with subliminal symbolism in the story's setting and environments.
When reading "The Yellow Wallpaper", a reader cannot miss noticing the importance of the setting in which the action takes place. The author's intent is to focus the reader's attention into the story in a gradual manner; in this way, the unusual events presented later on will produce a greater impression on the reader. In addition, setting is a strategy for the author to introduce symbols in the text, symbols that are not obvious to decipher at the first read. As an expert on symbolism in human culture, Carl Jung writes in Man and His Symbols: "Thus a word or an image is symbolic when it implies something more than it's obvious and immediate meaning. It has a wider "unconscious" aspect that is never precisely defined or fully explained" (Jung 20). These symbols represent Gilman's view on the status of women in the patriarchal society of the nineteenth century. Views that were so shocking for those times that their direct unveiling may have led to strong criticism and perhaps the exclusion of publishing the story. This effect is created with a combination of several techniques. The most prominent and easiest to observe is the manipulation of setting.