Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Agency Regarding her Disillusionment with Socially Prescribed Domesticity Norms

Natalie Malin

Abstract


Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1892 “The Yellow Wall-Paper” is one of the earliest pieces of literature that delves into the stifled subject of female depression associated with motherhood. While it is understood that such intellectual womens’ despair and suffering stems from having their creative outlets, such as expressive and cathartic writing, wrongfully taken from them once they became mothers, I contend that Gilman’s main character is not only falling into deeper psychosis, but also perhaps attempting to be heard via her odd behaviors. Such “scandalous” writings illuminate personal insight such brave female pioneers dared to share with their readers, even if thought to be veiled. I believe when such authors wrote they were often doing so, maybe even unconsciously, as a form of self-therapy, but also, as a way of screaming for help. This still volatile topic—sharing the taboo personal pains associated with domestic disillusionment-- deserves to be considered part of the ongoing discourse related to the theme of domestic ideology, conventions of motherhood, writer’s silences and female creativity.


Keywords


Gilman; Women; Feminist Theory

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