The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a fictionalized autobiographical story that illustrates the emotional deterioration of the female narrator who is also a wife and mother. The woman, who seemingly is suffering from post-partum depression, searches for some sort of peace in her male dominated world. She is given a “rest cure” from her husband/doctor, John, which requires strict bed rest and a prescribed forbidding from any mental stimulation. As a result of her husband’s controlling edicts, the woman develops an obsessive attachment to the intricate details of the wallpaper on her bedroom wall.
The Narrator’s descent into insanity is the expense for her blind obedience in The Yellow Wallpaper. The levels of inequality within the marriage of the narrator and John are great. John is very controlling of his wife/patient, and she obeys his orders because she believes that “if a physician of high standing, and one’s own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression–a slight hysterical tendency–what is one to do? ” (Gilman 1). She fears that she is ill, but doubts herself because “[John} does not believe [she is] sick” (Gilman 1).
Because she views John as an all-knowing man, he becomes the all-deciding party in their marriage. To add to the inequality, John denies her identity as a wife by allowing her to only become his patient, or at best a “little girl” (Gilman 7). Unfortunately, the narrator complies to her husband’s orders. She has respect for her domineering husband as a male authority figure and a “physician of high standing” (Gilman 1). Even though she disagreed with his method of treatment and rather believes “that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do [her] good”, not once does she confront him (Gilman 1).
Instead of confronting him, she disobeys his orders only in her free time when he is not around. Because she doesn’t openly question her husband’s methods, she starts to lose self-confidence and acquire a feeling of guilt. She is unable to express herself freely because she doesn’t want to cause trouble with her husband, and because he doesn’t take her anxiety seriously. He treats her like a child when she confides in him about her mental state. When she wakens him in the night to tell him that she thinks she is more ill then he believes, he shrugs it off by responding, “’Bless her little heart! ’ said he with a big hug, ‘she shall e as sick as she pleases! ’” (Gilman 7).
His saying this makes it seem that he thinks she is pretending to be sick, much like children often do to gain attention. The tone he uses is also very similar to how one would talk to a child, but with a hint of mockery. His inability to take her seriously greatly affects her self-esteem, and she no longer goes to him to talk about her anxiety. Because of this, she starts to concentrate more on her surroundings, including the wallpaper of her domestic prison. With no one to confide in but her journal, she only has her bottled imagination to soothe and entertain her while on her strict bed rest.
Her imagination creates women who are trapped behind the wallpaper, whom she can relate to. In the end, it is clear that she has reached insanity. As it was written to do so, The Yellow Wallpaper how the narrator’s oppression led her down the path of insanity. Because she put her husband on a pedestal, she ultimately lost her identity as a wife, her ability to express herself, and her self-esteem, and thus her sanity.
“The Yellow Wallpaper. ” , by Charlotte Perkins Gilman; Page 1. N. p. , n. d. Web. 17 Oct. 2012.