The Yellow Wallpaper

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The Yellow Wallpaper Although on the surface The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, is a story about one woman’s struggles with sanity it is not. In truth, it is a story about the dominant/submissive relationship between an oppressive husband and his submissive wife. The husband, John, pushes his wife’s depression to a point quite close to insanity. The narrator seems to destroy herself through her overactive imagination and her urge to write. When they arrive she seems well in control of her faculties, but by the time they are readying for departure, she has broken down. Flawed human nature seems to play a great role in her breakdown. Her husband, a noted physician, is unwilling to admit that there may be a real problem with his wife. This same attitude is mirrored in her brother, also a physician. 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. Throughout the story, John speaks out against her writing, because he feels that it contributes to her depression but she writes anyway, feeling that she is getting away with something. John treats her as if she were ill not depressed. John being a physician, not a psychologist, prescribes her medication that is for someone who is physically ill, not experiencing psychological distress. The journal becomes an outlet for her true feelings that she believes would get her incarcerated if anyone else heard them. When she writes she states, “I think sometimes that if I were only well enough to write a little it would relieve the press of ideas and rest me. But I find I get pretty tired when I try.” Her husband who believes that her writing is contributing to her illness opposes this idea while not radical.
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