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The story "The Yellow Wallpaper," by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a story about control. In the time frame in which the story was written, the 1800’s, women were looked upon as having no effect on society other than bearing children, maintaining a clean house, and food on the table etc. etc. There was really no means for self expression as a woman, when men not only dominated society but the world. The story was written at a time when men held the jobs, knowledge, and society above their shoulders. The narrator on, "The Yellow Wallpaper" in being oppressed by her husband, John, even though many readers believe this story is about a woman who loses her mind, it is actually about a woman’s struggle to regain, something which she never had before, control of her life.
To initiate on the theme of control I will proceed to speak about the narrators husband, who has complete control over her. Her husband John has told her time and time again that she is sick; this can be viewed as control for she cannot tell him otherwise for he is a physician and he knows better, as does the narrator’s brother who is also a physician. At the beginning of the story she can be viewed as an obedient child taking orders from a professor, and whatever these male doctors say is true. The narrator goes on to say, “personally, I disagree with their ideas” (557), that goes without saying that she is not very accepting of their diagnosis yet has no option to overturn her “treatment” the bed rest and isolation. Another example of her husband’s control would be the choice in room in which she must stay in. Her opinion is about the room she stays in is of no value. She is forced to stay in a room she feels uneasy about, but John has trapped her in this particular room, where the windows have bars and the bed is bolted to the floor, and of course the dreadful wall paper, “I never worse paper in my life.” (558) she says. Although she wishes to switch rooms and be in one of the downstairs rooms one that, “opened on the piazza and had roses all over the window. ...” (558). However, she knows that, “John would not hear of it.”(558) to change the rooms.
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As the story continues, the narrator feels that maybe she could gain some control over things. She begins to gain some mental strength from the wallpaper; her mind begins to think that maybe John is not entirely correct about everything. John has told her to not let things bother her, yet the wall paper is absorbing her, and she only keeps focusing on it more for what John says to rebel and gain back some control. She feels if she solves the mystery behind this wallpaper she will know something John doesn’t know. This point is made when the narrator says, “There are things in that paper that nobody know but me...” (563)The narrator is now convinced she has an understanding about the wallpaper that her “know it all” husband doesn’t. This is where she comes to the realization that she has a mind and is no longer afraid to use it. The narrator begins to think she has some hope in gaining some control, but even John doesn’t understand what is truly wrong with her, so his solution was to hide her in a room. He thinks this solution will solve his problems but in turn it gives his wife the opportunity to solve her own problems in her solitude. She does this by refusing to just take any more orders.
The freedom the author is feeling is best expressed in the text when we hit the climax, the climax being where she tears down the hideous wallpaper. She knows John will not be happy with her, but this bothers her not one bit, she wants to have control over something even if it is the wallpaper. This is only the beginning of her recuperation; her life now is seized by her and is no longer in the control of her husband. By being locked in the room she has grown stronger mentally as a woman. The culminating point of the story is when John discovers what she has done, the narrator separates herself from John and gains some control on him when she says, “Now why should he have fainted? But he did, and right across my path by the wall so that I may creep over him every time” (568) She is no longer worried about Johns thoughts and his unconscious body does nothing to stop her, she is on a mission to remove all the wallpaper, and nothing can stop her. She has come to an end of her quest for self control and is now proud to be in righteous control of her life, and thoughts.
In conclusion the theme of control plays a major role in the development of the story. In the examples, of John’s male dominance over the narrator, then the wall paper dominates her and by the end she is in control of both the wallpaper and her husband. In the end John no longer controls every action, and the wall paper does not control her every thought. As the story develops the narrator matures and she is now in more control than she ever was before.