John’s insistence that the two of them remain in the nursery despite his wife’s pleas and the surplus of alternative, appealing rooms in the house introduces his exertion of control over her. Gilman effectively incorporates representations of the narrator’s loss of power in her marriage through the specifics of the bedroom. The treatment to which the woman is subjected—including her husband’s disregard for her understanding of her own health, his insistence that she remain motionless unless he provides “special direction,” and the patronizing care she receives while quarantined– renders her as powerless as an infant, an interpersonal dynamic that is paralleled by her physical position in the nursery. The narrator’s ultimate degradation to “[creeping] on the ground” in an infantile manner further validates the appropriateness of the nursey as the setting.
The loss of freedom that is central to the story is also signified by both real and perceived features of the nursery. The anchored bed and windows “barred for little children”— each reminiscent of a prison— accentuate the sensation of confinement and powerlessness. Like a prisoner, she is forbidden to act of her own accord, forcing her to hide her writing from those that are “so wise” and “practical in the extreme.” Similarly, the images the narrator projects upon the wallpaper reveal the extent to which her lack of agency distresses h...
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...elative isolation in a disturbing, “almost revolting” room. In this sense, the setting is the cause of the character’s development. In assuming the identity of the woman created in response to the disconcerting room, the narrator simultaneously takes on a new behavior toward her husband. Referring to him as both “young man” and “that man” shows irreverence that is not articulated in her earlier entries. Likewise, creeping over him shows a disregard for the man that she has revered and felt guilty for inconveniencing.
To a greater extent than is typically seen in literary works, the setting in “The Yellow Wallpaper” defines the story’s conflict, as well as the development of the protagonist. Though she and her husband journey to the colonial mansion for the sake of her already diminished emotional health, the room to which she is confined exacerbates her melancholia.
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