The Character of John in The Yellow Wallpaper

analytical Essay
2044 words
2044 words

The Character of John in The Yellow Wallpaper

John's fascination with observing his wife can be attributed to a physician's distorted interest in the body. We can certainly speculate that, as physicians at the turn of the century were beginning to explore the female body assisted by "developments" in gynecology, John may have been equally interested in these new techniques of viewing the female body. More so than ever, the patient and her body became subject to the physician's privilege to intimately observe and diagnose her.

Ostensibly, the narrator's illness is not physiological, but mental. John concludes that his wife is well except for a "temporary nervous depression--a slight hysterical tendency," a diagnosis that is confirmed by the narrator's own physician-brother (Gilman 10). John's profession, and moreover his diagnosis, is a license to closely observe, scrutinize, watch, gaze upon, seek out, and investigate his wife and her ailments, which consequently permits him to deploy seemingly inexhaustible (medical, scientific) means for (re)formulating and (re)presenting the hysteric female--not only for the purpose of giving her discursive representation, but in order to "de-mystify" her mystery and reassure himself that she is, finally, calculable, harmless, and non-threatening. To speak of John in psychoanalytic terms, his preoccupation with his wife, her body, and her confinement, reveals unspoken anxieties: the fear of castration and the "lack" the female body represents.

There are, as Mulvey explains, two ways a man can potentially escape castration anxiety. One is a voyeuristic route in which the man is concerned with re-enacting the "original trauma." Here the man is concerned with asc...

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...ican Fiction. 17 (1989): 193-201.

Haney-Peritz, Janice. "Monumental Feminism and Literature's Ancestral House: Another Look at 'The Yellow Wallpaper'" Women's Studies. 12 (1986): 113-128.

Kasmer, Lisa. "Charlotte Perkins Gilman's 'The Yellow Wallpaper': A Symptomatic Reading." Literature and Psychology. 36, (1990): 1-15.

Jordanova, Ludmilla. Sexual Visions: Images of Gender in Science and Medicine between the 18th and 20th Centuries. London: Harrester Wheatsheaf, 1989.

Mulvey, Laura. "Pandora: Topographies of the Mask and Curiosity." Sexuality and Space. Ed. Beatriz Colomina. Princeton: Princeton Papers on Architecture, 1992. 53-71.

------. "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema." Screen. 16 (1975): 6-18.

Wigley, Mark. "Untitled: The Housing of Pleasure." Sexuality and Space. Ed. Beatriz Colomina. Princeton Papers on Architecture, 1992. 327-389.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how the narrator turns to her journal to escape john's codes of propriety. john makes discovery eminent and ensures what material will be penned into the journal.
  • Analyzes how the narrator invites john inside, but in a manner that seeks to efface the antinomy between inside and outside, interior and exterior.
  • Analyzes how john enters the bedroom, but is unable to abandon the conventions that separate him from his wife. he finds in the attic a woman who has refigured herself somewhere between the real and the not real, between place and placelessness.
  • Describes wigley, mark, and beatriz colomina's "untitled: the housing of pleasure."
  • Analyzes how john's fascination with observing his wife, her body, and her confinement, reveals unspoken anxieties about castration and the "lack" the female body represents.
  • Analyzes how the bedroom in "the yellow wallpaper" generates tension between the desire to know and the fear of knowing.
  • Narrates how they said the key was down by the front door under a plantain leaf. they repeated it several times, gently and slowly, and said it so often that he had to go and see.
  • Analyzes how john finds the narrator in a mad state, reduplicating herself in the yellow papered walls, and "out at last."
  • Cites bak, john s. and colomina, beatriz. the split wall: domestic voyeurism.
  • Cites golden, catherine, and jordanova, ludmilla, in the captive imagination: a casebook on "the yellow wallpaper."
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