An absence of definition best describes depression. This is the central question that the story of “The Yellow Wallpaper” aims to answer. The film is based on Charlotte Perkins’s seminal short story of the same name, which was first published in 1982.
The movie is unsettling because of the recurring themes of postpartum depression and patriarchal tyranny. The movie’s glacial pace may bother some viewers, but for others, it may feel inevitable given the gravity of the themes explored. Either way, the length of “The Yellow Wallpaper” belies its actual running time.
Synopsis of “The Yellow Wallpaper”
John, a physician, takes his wife Jane (Alexandra Loreth) to a country estate. Joe Mullins plays John. John brought his wife here to get over her postpartum depression and regain her vigour after giving birth. His concern, however, sounds like a justification for the persecution that was so common in the late 19th century.
Despite John’s insistence that resting in bed is the best treatment, Jane is adamant that going outside will be more beneficial. John forbids her from writing, which was a source of comfort for her, on the grounds that it would only make her condition worse. He encourages her to recharge her batteries so she can bring her mothering skills to bear.
Jane now begins her covert exploration and journaling. When her husband locks her in one room, she starts to feel the effects of “The Yellow Wallpaper.” She’s completely sucked in by the wallpaper’s pattern, the yellow stains it left on her clothes, and the noxious odour it leaves in her hair.
John claims the space was formerly used as a nursery, but Jane only sees a prison. Eventually, she starts to think that the wallpaper conceals a sane lady who, like her, is shackled and unable to break free. Will Jane be able to deal with herself if she doesn’t have a method to express her scary imagination?
The story takes place during an era when patriarchy was the norm in society. While melancholy is the central theme of “The Yellow Wallpaper,” patriarchal tyranny lurks in the background, threatening to break through John’s protective shield for Jane.
John’s interest in her “talents” as a mother is constantly highlighted throughout the film, while her “talents” as a writer are given less screen time. This “care” just serves to reinforce the stifled nature of her persona.
Even in her sleep, she is surrounded by thorny vines and squishy muck as her husband pushes her deeper and deeper into the ground. We observe once more how John’s love is suffocating her.
After Jane has locked herself in the room, we witness her making fun of John’s “calls and pounds,” another illustration of his domineering personality. It’s also insulting to her husband’s taste that she claims it would be a disgrace to break the door and enter.
What finally sent her over the edge was the realisation that she had to “crawl over him [John] every time,” which was both frightening and chilling.
she still has to “creep over him,” implying that she as a woman has to live with the knowledge that the prejudice society has on her will always be there, which adds to her insanity and leaves the reader either admiring her for breaking free from the chains of society or feeling pity for her because she has not broken free at all.
It’s almost as if Charlotte Perkins Gilman means to imply, in the novel’s last pages, that in order to make a breakthrough and learn how to break out of society, you have to suffer through a complete collapse.
In conclusion, the conclusion of The Yellow Wallpaper is a culmination of a woman’s rapid disintegration as she grows increasingly insane due to being banned by the rules of society.
Although the narrator has to be driven completely insane to appreciate what has been holding her back and driving her insane in the first place, Charlotte Perkins Gilman uses the narrator’s possibly metaphorical mental “breakdown” to portray her “breakthrough” that women are very much being restricted by patriarchy, and the ending is a display of this woman’s understanding of this idea.
The narrator is ultimately driven mad to express the idea that patriarchy substantially affects society in general, therefore this ending is both a breakdown for her and a breakthrough.