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The Yellow Wallpaper

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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 due to her depression, he feels that it is his responsibility as the man to make the decision to isolate her in a large house outside of any town (285). By deciding on what should happen without consulting his wife herself shows the effect that gender roles have on both of them. John, believing he is the only one to make logical decisions due to his role as a man, puts his wife in her place by isolating her. She draws the attention of the reader to the fact that she is suffering at the hand of her husband throughout the story, yet she justifies his behavior by saying that she is a burden and that he is “Very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction” (285). The way she brings up this recurring behavior of John guiding his wife, it is further shown the dominance he has over his wife and the decisions he lets her make. Despite the fact that John forces his wife to stay in the house, she admits how much she craves society and the people she loves (285). Although she tries to share this with John, he doesn’t listen and she...

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...aper so that the women can get out (294), symbolizing a kind of desperate sisterhood that takes down the patriarchy and sends women to creep around as they please. She then shouts at John saying “You can’t put me back!” (295). She had developed her own kind of sisterhood with the women behind the wallpaper, and had overthrown the patriarchal wallpaper. John fainted in response to this, seeing his power over his wife slip away (295).
The many ways that John tried to help his wife actually ended up drawing her further in to her declining mental state. He used his power over her in ways that he perceived to be helpful because of his authority as a man. Because he never asked his wife what would help her, he was the determining factor in leading his wife to madness. He was blind to anything a woman would want or think, and in the end they both paid the price for it.
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