The Yellow Wallpaper from the Point of View of a Doctor's Wife
"The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, is a story told from the first person point of view of a doctor's wife who has nervous condition. The first person standpoint gives the reader access only to the woman’s thoughts, and thus, is limited. The limited viewpoint of this story helps the reader to experience a feeling of isolation, just as the wife feels throughout the story. The point of view is also limited in that the story takes places in the present, and as a result the wife has no benefit of hindsight, and is never able to actually see that the men in her life are part of the reason she never gets well. This paper will discuss how Gilman’s choice of point of view helps communicate the central theme of the story- that women of the time were viewed as being subordinate to men. Also, the paper will discuss how ignoring oneself and one’s desires is self-destructive, as seen throughout the story as the woman’s condition worsens while she is in isolation, in the room with the yellow wallpaper, and her at the same time as her thoughts are being oppressed by her husband and brother.
In the story, the narrator is forced to tell her story through a secret correspondence with the reader since her husband forbids her to write and would “meet [her] with heavy opposition” should he find her doing so (390). The woman’s secret correspondence with the reader is yet another example of the limited viewpoint, for no one else is ever around to comment or give their thoughts on what is occurring. The limited perspective the reader sees through her narration plays an essential role in helping the reader understand the theme by showing the woman’s place in the world. At the time the story was written, women were looked down upon as being subservient beings compared to men. No matter what a woman did or thought, she was still seen as the lesser of the sexes.
Like the narrator, women of that time were directed to suppress their creativity as it threatened the dominating male's sense of control. By having the narrator be forced to write in secret, "There comes John, and I must put this away -- he hates to have me write a word," Gilman was able to show that even the simplest things, like wanting to write were forbidden, lest the male approved (392). Prohibited from working and not being able to contribute to the household as a proper wife, the narrator begins to feel helpless: "So I… am absolutely forbidden to ‘work’ until I am well again. Personally, I disagree with their ideas" (390). The narrator’s husband and brother both exert their own will over hers, forcing her to do what they think is the appropriate behavior for a sick woman. She has been given a "schedule[d] prescription for each hour in the day; [John] takes all care from me" (391). The way that she is required to act involves practically no exertion of her own free-will. Instead, she is expected to obediently accept the fact...