“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Gilman demonstrates the constrains placed on women to conform to a certain identity. In this story, the main character is suffering form postpartum depression and she is prescribed the rest cure. Her husband, who is also her doctor, forces her not work or do anything until she recovers. She is supposed to sleep and eat, and stay in isolation, for this is the only way to make her feel better. The woman has no say in any of this, and even though she tries to tell her husband that she is not getting better, the husband treats her as a child. He calls her “little girl” and “silly” and this further emphasizes the role of women as being child-like and fragile. Society’s gender role for women is to be dependent on men and to be intellectually inferior to them. The husband, being a doctor and educated, was the only one who was right. He kept telling her that she was getting better when in fact she was getting worse.
In the story, the wallpaper represents the social strains put on women. Towards the end, as the main character was going insane, she kept decieving her husband that she was alright. She noticed that behind the wallpaper was a woman trying to escape. She locks herself up in the room and takes off all the wallpaper. She sees herself as the woman behind the wallpaper, and tells her husband that she escaped and he can’t put her back. Once she gets rid of the wallpaper she is free to be herself and is able to do whatever she wants without the constrains of society. Gilman is saying that these constrains put pressure on women to behave a certain way and that they can lead a woman to insanity. Society has two very different roles for men and women. Men are supposed to be the one in power while women are suppsed to obbey and be subservient to them.