The Yellow Wallpaper is an intriguing short story written by American writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman in the 19th century The story follows the narrator, a woman, whose husband has prescribed a rest cure to improve her mental health, who finds herself increasingly consumed by the bizarre pattern of the wallpaper in her room. Through the narrator’s descent into madness and her attempts to escape the confines of her prison-like room, the story serves as an exploration of the oppressive roles and expectations placed on women during this time.
As an analysis topic, the Yellow Wallpaper provides a wealth of interesting essay ideas that explore topics of gender roles and identity, marriage, mental illness, and oppression. Here are five of the best examples:
1. Exploring Gender Roles and Identity in The Yellow Wallpaper: In this essay, one would explore how Gilman uses the narrator’s struggle to break free from the role of a subservient wife to explore gender roles and identity in the 19th century. Special attention should be given to the motif of confinement, as the narrator is physically and mentally confined by her husband’s expectations and by the wallpaper.
2. Exploring Marriage in The Yellow Wallpaper: In this essay, one would analyze how Gilman portrays marriage between the narrator and her husband. Does he actually love her or is he just maintaining her as a possession? What roles do their respective genders play in their marriage? How is marriage portrayed in the story as a whole?
3. Exploring Mental Illness in The Yellow Wallpaper: In this essay, one would explore how the story serves as an exploration of the treatment of the mentally ill in the 19th century. What is the rest cure prescribed to the narrator and why do her husband and doctor think it is the best treatment? How do they respond when the narrator’s mental state worsens?
4. Exploring Oppression in The Yellow Wallpaper: In this essay, one would explore how Gilman uses the narrator’s confinement to her room to symbolize the oppression that women faced during this time. How does the motif of confinement manifest throughout the story? How does this contribute to the narrator’s deteriorating mental state?
5. Exploring Madness in The Yellow Wallpaper: In this essay, one would explore how Gilman uses the narrator’s descent into madness to explore mental illness and its treatment in the 19th century. What are the signs of her deterioration? What events lead her to her breaking point? How does the motif of confinement contribute to her downward spiral?