An autobiography and the biography are enduring descriptions of personal life and experiences that one can immortalize in form of written text. The example of Charlotte Gilman’s expression of her perspective of women’s life during her time is an example of how such writing can store an experience permanently. In most cases, people look for help to write a biography. This is why it lacks the suffix “auto”. For a biography, it is necessary to find someone to do biography paper and then make an agreement on how to share revenue from the sale of the book. When you pay someone to write a biography, you acknowledge that writing is outsourced. In contrast, when you do an autobiography, the work is acknowledged as your own writing and words. In many cases, an autobiography writer hires an editor to make corrections to the paper. In reality, the editor is sometimes a paid writer or co-writer. Regardless, an autobiography must capture a true picture of life experiences regardless of whether you hire someone to write or just pay someone to type. The following is the plot and an analysis of the renowned autobiography example.
The Yellow Wallpaper is an autobiography of sorts by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. In the story, she describes how women suffering from nervous disorders were treated during her time. Her physician prescribed the then famous rest cure, where the patient was required to refrain from working and thinking (Kessler 2). The story also shows the position assigned to women during this time; they were expected to have childlike obedience and submission to male authority figures.
The story’s unnamed protagonist appears helpless in her husband’s house. She is suffering from a nervous disorder. Her husband John, a physician, takes her to a country house and relegates a room in the third floor against her will. The room, which she believes was previously used as a nursery, has yellow wallpaper. She is not allowed to work, engage in intellectual activities such as reading and writing, or interact with other people. When she decides to disobey her husband and keep a diary, he chastises her by destroying it cruelly.
John has a sister named Jennie, who takes care of the household. He is a busy man who sometimes leaves his wife alone for days. She does not make contact with other people, not even Jennie. When John is home, he does not hold any meaningful conversation with his wife and dismisses any concern she may have regarding her health. He is too self-absorbed to notice that her condition is deteriorating. Jennie is instructed to monitor her every move. She blindly follows her brother’s instructions even when it becomes evident that the treatment is doing more harm than good.
Gilman adds a gothic touch to her story. She describes the hall of the house as ancestral and claims that it has “ghostliness” in it. The protagonist appeared to be trapped in a lonely house, which eventually interferes with her perception of reality and her sanity.
Some people argue that the story The Yellow Wallpaper can drive a person insane. Gilman, however, argues that it was meant to show the faults in the rest cure, thus preventing more women from losing their sanity (Gilman 1).
The Subordinate role of Women
In The Yellow Wallpaper, women are given a subordinate role in society. Their position in marriage is secondary to that of men, with their opinions bearing little or no meaning. Men are expected to be active while women should be passive. Their domestic role in the family made them second-class citizens (McLay 50). Throughout the story, the protagonist is treated like a child who cannot defend herself. Her total lack of power forces her to retreat into an obsessive fantasy, which is the only place where she can exercise power and retain control of her mind.
Importance of Expressing Oneself
The narrator is ultimately destroyed by the mental constraints that are placed upon her. She is unable to express herself due to the compulsory prescribed “resting cure.” Her dull and passive life is unbearable. Her imaginative power is repressed, and she does not have any intellectual or emotional outlet. According to Gilman, forced inactivity of the mind could lead to self-destruction. The resting treatment proves to be more harmful than useful. It is cruel and destructive to the patient. Gilman criticizes any medical treatment that ignores the patient’s concerns.
Irony and symbolism in the yellow wallpaper
Irony is a common feature in the Yellow Wallpaper. The narrator uses verbal irony to show the unhealthy state of her marriage. She says that her husband laughs at her, which is expected in marriage (Gilman 647). That should not be the case in a healthy marriage.
Dramatic irony is seen in the narrator’s misinterpretation of the room she is assigned. It has torn wallpaper, bars on windows and nailed-down furniture. She believes that the room was once a nursery. However, it is evident that the room once housed an insane person. Eventually, her fate is not any different from the former occupant of the room. Even John is surprised when he sees his wife in that terrible state of insanity.
Situational irony is when actions lead to the wrong, unintended outcome. An example of this is seen in the treatment the narrator receives for her nervous condition. It is intended to cure her of the illness, but instead leads to complete insanity. She also finally gains insight and some power after she loses her reason.
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The Yellow Wallpaper is an epistolary story; the narrator tells her story. The method is used to show the readers her progressive descent into insanity both objectively and subjectively. Her story begins on the inside, with the narrator being aware of her mental situation, and ends on the outside, where she is no longer aware of her problems. This narrative technique makes it possible for the reader to differentiate between what is real and what is imagined. For instance, if the narration were in first-person, it would be impossible to tell whether the person in the wallpaper existed. Third person narrative, on the other hand would have made it difficult for the reader to understand the narrator’s thoughts. Journaling makes the story more intimate and immediate, with every activity appearing to be in real time.
The Yellow Wallpaper appears to be a symbolic message, which the narrator must interpret. She believes that the message in the wallpaper affects her directly. In the beginning, the narrator shows her dislike for the yellow wallpaper. It is soiled and ripped; she cannot help but notice the filth. The patterns on the wallpaper are ostensibly formless. With time, she begins to see a pattern. She sees the form of a woman trapped in a cage. Soon she sees many women trying to escape and end up being strangled. The images she sees represent her life. She feels trapped in tradition, medicine, and family (Sigurðardóttir 32). Her role in society is insignificant; she desires to matter. Her potential is confined, and she longs to be free. Gilman uses this hideous, nightmarish, paper to symbolize the domestic life in which many women are trapped.
After reading the narrator’s journal, one cannot help but wonder whether her recording is reliable. She records her personal descent into madness because of her position as a submissive wife to a domineering husband. One may also wonder whether unknown and unexplainable supernatural forces overwhelmed her, leading to her eventual insanity. One fact, however, comes out clearly: human beings were not designed to be alone and idle for prolonged periods. It could lead to unfortunate events and unnecessary mental torture. As it can be gleaned from Gilman’s written record of her life getting someone to do an autobiography or a biography can be useful, especially in ensuring objectivity. It is difficult to be critical of oneself when writing such a biography paper, but when you pay another person to write cheaply, it become easier to be critical of the self.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wallpaper. The New England Magazine, 1892.
—. Why I wrote the yellow wallpaper. New England Magazine , 1892.
Kessler, Carol Farley. Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Ed. Jennifer S. Tuttle. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2001.
McLay, Molly. "A Tale of Two Feminists." Undergraduate 15.1 (2003): 50-59.
Sigurðardóttir, Helga. "Behind The Wallpaper." Háskóli Íslands (2010): 1-37.