The Yellow Wallpaper

1280 words - 6 pages

The story “The Yellow Wallpaper”, written by Charlotte Gilman, is a story of a woman overcome by depression after giving birth to her first child. Her husband John, a physician, diagnoses the condition as womanly hysteria. John, being “practical in the extreme” (284), takes charge of the means to her recovery through his knowledge and power over his wife. Due to the way he exercises his high status as a man, John is consequently more of a factor in his wife’s mental decline than the condition itself.
In the beginning of the story, the first thing John does to exercise his power is to isolate his wife from family, friends, and society as a whole. In response to her worsened state of mind ...view middle of the document...

Because John made the decision to rent the house without consulting her, he used his power over her to isolate her and lead her to ruin.
When making decisions for his wife, John doesn’t just stop after he succeeds in isolating her. After they get to the house, John proceeds to take more things away from his wife. He forbids she write in her journal, thinking that she is too weak to be able to handle it (286). She continues to write when he is not around, and admits that it is feels good to write (287). However, John refuses to ask her about what she thinks would make her feel better. She states that getting her emotions onto paper releases some of the stress, and helps her rest (287). He is also very strict about her using her imagination, saying she shouldn’t give way to the fantasies (287). Because John feels his being a man makes him superior to his wife, the steps he takes in supposedly assuring her recovery actually ends up backfiring. His blindness to the fault of his acts and his ignorance to her suffering is what makes her mental state decline so rapidly throughout the piece.
Throughout the story, John constantly shows the high status he holds in his marriage over his wife. Since the very beginning the wife claimed she was ill, but that John had brushed it off as a “temporary nervous depression – a slight hysterical tendency” (285). Because he looks down on his wife being that she is a woman, he refuses to listen to her talk about her condition. Since he doesn’t let her make decisions for herself, he feels he shouldn’t have to. He laughs at his wife multiple times in the story when she shares her thoughts with him. He laughs when she imagines the house being haunted, and she writes that one would expect that to happen (284). This shows that there are many points in their marriage that he would laugh at her imagination, and that gender roles have taught the wife not to expect anything else due to her lower status as a woman. When she tells him about how the yellow wallpaper bothers her, he laughs at her again (286). John is constantly laughing at his wife and putting her down for having an imagination. Since he is such a practical man, he figures that anything less than practical is meant to be laughed at. She puts up with it because she has to, but her mental state pays the price for his treatment of...

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