“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, describes the refusal of the male dominant society to recognize the natural superiority of a woman. It expresses the inequality that exists among men and women, and the mistreatment and lack of respect women receive from society. This is seen as a “condition” through the eyes of the narrator. She begins to believe that she is lacking something, that something is wrong with the way she is, but in reality, it is not her, but the society around her that implements and continues to misdiagnose her. The lack of acceptance causes the narrators husband ,John, to treat her as if she is inferior; he treats her like a child and “laughs at [her]… he does not believe [she is] sick” (233-234). He is presented as someone who is more knowledgeable than she because he is a physician, and at times she grows to fear him. In the narrative she contemplates on her “condition” and her thought is abruptly ended, because she suddenly remembers her husbands insight. She states “I sometimes fancy that in my condition, if I had less opposition and more society and stimulus– but John says the very worst thing I can do is to think about my condition, and I confess it always makes me feel bad” (234). She is encouraged to ignore her judgments about her own situation and remain submissive to the authority of her husband and society.
The wallpaper represents the search for truth and advocates for the liberation of women. Like the truth, the wallpaper is “dull enough to confuse the eye in following, pronounced enough constantly to irritate and provoke study, and when you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide…destroy themselves in unheard-of contradictions” (234). The wallpaper gives insight to how the searching for truth may seem to an obscure viewer: confusing, irritating and contradictory. However, from analyzing it, she found that there are patterns to this wallpaper. It “has a kind of sub-pattern in a different shade, a particularity irritating one, for you can only see it in certain lights, and not clearly then.” She is motivated to “follow that pointless pattern to some sort of conclusion.” Like the truth, the patterns on the wallpaper can only be seen “in certain lights,” moreover, she notes that “the front pattern does move– and no wonder! The woman behind shakes it. Sometimes I think there are a great women behind, and sometimes only one”(239). She finds the truth of the women behind the pattern, who “in the very bright spots she keeps still, and in the very shady spots she just takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard” (239). The women she discovers is one who is fighting for liberation, shaking the bars of understanding, in hopes to find justice and recognition of the truth she has uncovered. Like a yellow wallpaper, the failure to accept women continues to exist in our society. Women are portrayed as feeble minded, are disrespected by men, and are not treated as equals. Gilman strives to expose the disparity among men and women, and aims to reform the representation of women in society.