While these attitudes, and the actions taken by the two doctors, seem to have certainly contributed to her breakdown, it seems that there is an underlying rebellious spirit in her. The narrator, speaking out against her husband states, “He says no one but myself can help me out of it, that I must use my will and self-control and not let any silly fancies run away with me.” This demonstrates how John is not treating his wife for anything. He simply doesn’t believe there is a problem. This is one of her major motivations for keeping a journal; she thinks it helps her because she is afraid to speak out against her husband. Every time she thinks about writing in the journal, she relates how tired it makes her.
The theme of feminism is exposed by the main characters use of language, her feelings of inferiority, mental struggles, and anger. The language of the narrator in this story is repressive to women, from the beginning and all the way to the end of the story. In the beginning of the story, the language of the narrator appears in a few ways. The ill woman is forbidden by her husband to write in her journal until she is well, to compensate for the loss of work. She feels constricted by her husband to speak freely and writes in a hidden journal.
“The story examines one woman’s descent into madness due to inactivity.” She also states that it examines the struggles between marriage and career, social expectations and personal goals. The story is about a woman being trapped in her marriage, she’s trying free herself. The narrator ends up going insane because she’s forbidden to write the only thing she can do is rest. The struggle between marriage and career is that John is her husband and her doctor. During the story he’s trying to cure her depression and doesn’t act much like her husband as he does her doctor.
The rest cure was the standard treatment during the nineteenth century, but with the completely isolation from everything “For many patients, this cure was worse than the condition itself.” (Kirszner and Madell,379), as for the narrator the isolation causes unstable mental thoughts about her surroundings. Her husband will not let her see her family, children, friends or even write. In the beginning the narrator feels that writing is what will make her feel better but to John’s disapproval she must keep it a secret. She explains that she wants to write in spite of him however, even the narrator sees that it exhausts her to be “… sly about it, or else meet with heavy opposition.” (380). Though writing may be good for her mind the secret keeping from her husband is creating an unhealthy situation.
The narrator, who will be referred to as Gilman for simplicity's sake, is a writer who is unable to write due to her motherhood. "I did write for a while in spite of them; but it does exhaust me a good deal-" (p801) It was this motherhood that brought her illness so she couldn't write. This shows how just being a woman is difficult to have a career. Her husband, John, always tried to keep her in her room without anything to do but recover from her illness. Without anything to do, especially her writing, Gilman saw this as being held back from becoming her true self.
Because her husband, John, does not take her illness seriously and neglects to get her out of the house, her mind cannot take it and she loses her sanity. It should be clear to the reader, since she thinks she and the imaginary woman has worked together to pull the wallpaper down that she believes the women in the yellow wallpaper and she are both trapped and are both working together to escape. (200) Likewise, when she tells John, “I got out at last”, and, “in spite of you and jane! And I pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back”, By her saying this to John tells you she thinks she is free, because she has torn down the yellow wallpaper. She is no longer saying anything about a woman being in the wallpaper, because in her mind, she is now the
The narrator knows that she is not too well and that John - her husband does not realize the intensity of her sickness, he ignores her continuous efforts to make him aware of the real situation and her suffering. To make the situation worse he imposes his opinions on her even when it comes to her health. This story shows us the life and the thoughts of the narrator which lead her to be free, but go out of her mind in the sense of the real world. This story is written as if the narrator is writing it. The narrator is sick and her husband has made her a study project, She is continuously watched and thus she has no privacy.
Also, we see in the story how the narrator feels to this lack of empathy coming from her own husband. In page 649 she says, “John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no reason to suffer, and that satisfies him.” John’s lack of empathy does not let him analyze and access what is going on in the mind of her wife. Instead, the narrator is suffering while John is walking around with the idea that there is no reason for her to suffer. Lastly, the narrator shares how she feels to the idea of wanting to tell John about the haunting wallpaper when she says, “I had no intention of telling him it was because of the wall-paper- he would make fun of me.
The narrator is barred from doing anything and trapped in a room she hates. The narrator must write in her journal secretly because if her husband finds out, he will forbid her from doing any more writing. Due to her illness, she is given the rest cure which only makes her health worse. Also, the husband uses their child as leverage to keep her in her place. In Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper": A Surrealistic Portrayal of a Woman's Arrested Development quotes Charlotte Perkins Gilman who says that she wrote the Yellow Wallpaper as a revolt against the fact that men deny woman all humanity and women are largely ignored in the nineteenth century (Hall 2).
New York: Longman 2003. 772-773.