This work is devoted to the analysis of the mental state of the main character of Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte Gilman, as a linguistic personality in conditions of forced isolation. The essay explores the systematic reflection of the evolution of the primary structures of imagination as a self-contained identity. The character of a literary work (in this case, the woman from the Yellow Wallpaper) potentially embodies the author and the reader as an aggregate producer of a certain idea and options for its comprehension. The comprehension of the idea (the building of the whole) occurs in fragments and phases. At a certain moment, it is a homogeneous fragment of a heterogeneous whole. The transition to another stage of awareness (the heroine’s madness) marks a phase transition.
Description of the unstable mental state of the main character of the story “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a deliberately created illustration of the gradual loss of reason and sliding into madness. Each phase of mental health deterioration is recorded verbally, as the character records her experiences in a diary in an organized manner (Özyön 119). The element-catalyst of the way of transmitting the heroine’s state is the wallpaper rapport in the story, which in each phase acquires fundamentally different forms for her.
In the story, a woman spends hours in a room where her doctor husband John advises her to rest. Since he forbids the heroine to be active, she examines the wallpaper and keeps a secret diary. Her so-called nervous weakness is associated with an excessive, in John’s opinion, habit of fantasizing inherent in creative natures. Therefore, he believes that the treatment for the spouse should consist of round-the-clock rest. Forced immobility in a confined space stimulates the intense work of the imagination. This is what leads to pathological consequences at the end of the narrative.
The heroine as a linguistic personality (according to the diary) is an American. This is evidenced by the spelling of words according to the spelling rules of the American version of English (Roethle 161). Her hobby is literary creativity, categorically rejected by her husband. The propensity for creative work is confirmed by a large number of metaphorical epithets (Raouf and Ali 132). She also probably recently became a mother because the diary often mentions the baby in a positive way. Subconsciously, she tries to protect the child from an unpleasant room with terrible yellow wallpaper.
Perhaps the mysterious illness that John treats his wife for is postpartum depression. It is she who is connected with the first phase in the chronology of events in the story. This phase is based on the war theme in the plot. The heroine agrees to fight the disease, a symptom of which she considers her strange fantasies about yellow wallpaper (Gilman 63). She obediently takes the side of her husband, in whom she sees the embodiment of an invariably reasonable respected doctor. A woman resists the obsessive influence of wallpaper, which only irritates her in this phase with the alien illogicality of the designer’s thinking. The wallpaper pattern is constantly annoying and forces you to study it; the dirty yellow color is very repulsive to the heroine.
The next phase, the neurosis phase, is characterized by a weakening of the confrontation between the heroine and the wallpaper and varies with the moments of returning to the previous aversion. This is especially noticeable during the day since there is no consistency in it during the day, but only an open disregard for the laws of the image, which irritates the normal mind. However, at night, under the moon, the opposition is removed: the drawing on the wallpaper loses clarity and merges first into a chaotic jumble of lines and curls (Gilman 70). Then he turns into a whole image of a woman imprisoned behind a drawing, as if behind prison bars.
In the last phase – the phase of psychosis – the elements of the heroine vs wallpaper opposition are finally leveled. Firstly, the heroine tries to free the woman and at night with her to loosen the lattice, that is, to tear off the wallpaper. However, the task becomes more complicated — there are several women behind bars, then only one (Gilman 77). Secondly, she ceases to realize whether she really wants to free them as women penetrate into the physical reality of the heroine and crawl around the garden. Thirdly, the heroine begins to consider herself one of them, which completely removes the opposition.
The key structures of the third phase are the symbols of the husband as a support and fantasy as a disease. The support helps to resist the disease. The phase of psychosis is represented by the symbol of an imprisoned woman, appearing and disappearing behind a chaotic wallpaper pattern (Gilman 83). The heroine is afraid of her, then saves her, then relies on her husband’s judgment, then gives free rein to her imagination. The mystical phase is associated with the collapse of the lattice; women from the world of the heroine’s imagination penetrate into the physical world.
The dynamics of the functioning of the mental well-being of the character of the story “Yellow Wallpaper” is characterized by a change of phases. They mark the stages of how the main character goes crazy. They are divided into phases of relative mental norm, neurosis and psychosis. The transition between phases is recognized by signals — the change of syntactic features of the previous phase and the presence of key rhetorical figures. The identified signals represent the personality of the heroine realized in the text of the diary.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Writings. Gibbs Smith, 2019.
Raouf, Chalak Ghafoor, and Helan Sherko Ali. “The Helpless Angel in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper.” International Journal of English Language & Translation Studies, vol. 6, no. 3, 2018, pp. 130-136.
Roethle, Christopher. “A Healthy Play of Mind: Art and the Brain in Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”. American Literary Realism, vol. 5, no. 2, 2020, pp. 147-166.
Özyön, Arzu. “A Journey of Feminist Rebellion Through Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Short Story the Yellow Wallpaper and Her Novel Herland.” International Journal of Language Academy, vol. 8, no. 5, 2020, pp. 115-124.