CharlettePerkins Gilman writes “The Yellow Wallpaper” as a critique of the way thingsworked among the genders and the ways in which the lives of women in theVictorian era were limited.
A woman’s role was limited to the house anddomestic work, women lacked the opportunities that could lead to personalgrowth. Gilman uses the imagery in the story to reflect not only what is goingon inside the narrators’ head but the truth of the how the expectations of a typicaldomestic life could drive any woman crazy. The perspective of the story is veryimportant as it sets the scene and the insight into the mindset of a womangoing mad. Gilman could have written from a third person and had the readerdiscover the characters insanity from the a more detached view. However, Gilmanallows for the reader to be in the narrator’s head at every moment as sheslowly goes mad from the use of “the resting cure”. Using the first-personnarrative in the form of a journal written by the narrator gives the readeraccess to her most intimate thoughts about her treatment and her marriage, “Iwould not say this to a living soul, of course, but this is dead paper and agreat relief to my mind,” (Gilman 792). Gilman chose this viewpoint wiselyknowing most married woman would never say a word against her husband but wouldwrite it secretly in a personal journal.
The result of using the more intimateview, it makes the story is so much more inviting to the reader and ultimatelymore alarming. The narrator of the story is amarried woman who is suffering from what the readers know now is post-partumdepression which has been misdiagnosed in the story as a case of nerves orhysteria, by her husband who is a doctor. He takes her to a secluded house togive her the treatment called the resting cure. Gilman was against this curehaving gone through the treatment herself, and as she said, “came so near theborder line of utter mental ruin,” (Gilman 804). She writes the husband, John,as a typical man who thinks that his wife isn’t actually sick and that it isall in her head, that she should just remain calm and continue with her domesticlife as is expected of her in this century. John even though he probably loveshis wife he looks down on his her, he even laughs about his wife’s ideas.
Thenarrator is not surprised by this she even says it was expected in marriage,any reader should be bother by the fact that a husband does not take his wifeseriously. John never takes into account his wife’s feeling especially when itcomes to the room with the yellow wallpaper. In the story the narrator saysconsistently that she would rather take one of the nicer rooms downstairs, butJohn calls her a “blessed little goose,” (Gilman 794).
and insist that theystay in the room that he picked out which of course was once a nursery that hadbars on the windows. Gilmandidn’t write the narrators husband to be an intentionally cruel man, John isdescribed as, “practical in the extreme. He has no patience with faith, anintense horror of superstition and he scoffs openly at any talk of things notto be felt and seen and put down in figures,” (Gilman 792). This insight onJohn lets the reader know that he is a factual man and does not take to flightsof fancy or imagination, and does not believe that imaginative fancies are goodfor his wife’s health. So, John does what a lot of people thought was the bestoption to help his wife, a cure that rests the mind, but it is unintentionalneglect.
Leaving his wife alone too long with just her thoughts, and growingweaker from no physical activity or stimulation. When the narrator asks tovisit her cousins, and basically ends up crying on the floor since her husbandtold her no she is not well enough he uses this logic to sedate her, “He saysno one but myself can help me out of it, that I must use my will andself-control and not let any silly fancies run away with me,” (Gilman 797) Thisis a show of control that John has over his wife Gilman uses John’s word choicesin the story to show that men thought that women are helpless, and Gilmandeliberately wrote John this way so he always calls his wife some version of”silly” or “little” when she makes a suggestion to do something other then whathe thinks is best for her. Throughout the story John belittles his wife, andtreats her like a child, “‘What is it, little girl?’ He said. ‘Don’t go walkingabout like that—you’ll get cold,'” (Gilman 798).
Even though it goes againstthe narrators’ best instincts she still follows her husband cure schedule,Gilman uses this to show the reader the gender oppression was ruling over thenarrators’ life. Nextthe imagery used in the story brings the madness to life for the reader. Thenarrator is being given the rest cure as a treatment for her nerves, she is notallowed many things including any physical actives, which includes writing.This leaves her to only be able to concentrate on the details of her surroundings,most notably the wallpaper.
The wallpaper, in the beginning of the story, isdescribed as “flamboyant” and “the color revolting,” (793).This is presented as a passing detail of the arrival at the house which theyare staying, her thorough description of the wallpaper is used to show thereader that she has a quick eye for details. The narrator always gives moredetails every time she is alone in the room with the yellow wallpaper. Thedescriptions of the wallpaper changes throughout the story as the narratorlooks for a pattern as she lay in bed resting, “follow that pattern about bythe hour…I determine for the thousandth time that I will follow that pointlesspattern to some sort of a conclusion,” (Gilman 796). This is the start of hermental decay as she grows accustomed to the yellow wallpaper and by looking fora pattern this tells the reader more about the current psyche of the narrator,as she starts to see more in the wallpaper itself until she has convincedherself that there is a woman inside the wallpaper stooping behind bars, “Andit is like a woman stooping down and creeping about behind that pattern. Idon’t like it a bit,” (Gilman 797). Gilman uses the woman in the wallpaper as ametaphor for the narrator’s current existence and the current life that womenin society generally held.
As Gilman thinks that marriage in the Victorian Era isnothing more than a confinement to a domestic life. The narrator eventual doescome to a mental break as she has convinced herself that she has come from thewallpaper, “‘I’ve got out at last’ said I, ‘in spite of you and Jane! And I’vepulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back!'” (Gilman 803).