Patriarchal society gives legal rights and economic power to men only so that women are subject to men and imprisoned in private sphere. When women who are given only the role of a wife and mother begin to demand freedom and legal rights, the basis of feminism appears. This study applies liberal feminist approach to Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper (1892) in order to analyse the gender roles in terms of patriarchal ideology of separate spheres. After giving birth to a baby, the narrator is diagnosed with hysteria by her husband John who is a physician. She is also prescribed a ‘rest cure’ for three months in the attic of an isolated house. The ‘rest cure’ causes her obsession with the yellow wallpaper and slowly drives her mad due to the limitation of thinking and of raising the consciousness of female in private sphere. To be imprisoned in a room may have enormous risks of disappointment, madness, and suicide. In order to limit a woman’s participation in the intellectual and public sphere, masculine science of nineteenth century’s patriarchal society converts ‘an angel in the house’ into ‘the madwoman in the attic’ under the name of ‘rest cure’. Gilman suggests that a woman can only free herself if her financial conditions are radically changed through finally installing a dialectical movement between private sphere and public sphere.
Keywords: Liberal feminism, women’s position, separate spheres, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper