Yellow Wallpaper Essay, Research Paper
Journey into Insanity
?The Yellow Wallpaper? by Charlotte Gilman
In ?The Yellow Wallpaper?, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the dominant/ submissive relationship between an oppressive husband and his submissive wife pushes her from depression into insanity. It is about the growing madness of a young married woman arising out of the pressures of her life. A woman who is being treated for a case of post-partum depression is slowly driven mad by the treatment itself ? enforced isolation and deprivation of her work, her writing, and her words.
Error of human nature seems to play a great role in her breakdown. Her husband, a noted physician, is unwilling to admit that there might really be something wrong with his wife. This same attitude is seen in her brother, who is also a physician. While this attitude, and the actions taken because of it, certainly contributed to her breakdown; it seems to me that there is a rebellious spirit in her. Perhaps unconsciously she seems determined to prove them wrong.
As the story begins, the woman tells of her depression and how her husband and brother dismiss it. ? You see, he does not believe I am sick! And what can one do? 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?? These two men, both doctors, seem completely unable to admit that there might be more to her condition than just stress and a slight nervous condition. Even when a summer in the country and weeks of bed-rest don?t help, her husband refuses to accept that she may have a real problem.
Throughout the story there are examples of the dominant-submissive relationship. She is virtually imprisoned in her bedroom, supposedly to allow her to rest and recover her health. She is forbidden to work, ?So I?am absolutely forbidden to ?work? until I am well again.? She is not even supposed to write: ?There comes John, and I must put this away ? he hates to have me write a work.?
She has no say in the location or d?cor of the room she is virtually imprisoned in. ?I don?t like our room a bit. I wanted?but John would not hear of it.? Another factor is being forbidden to have visitors: ?It is so discouraging not to have any advice and companionship about my work?but he says he would as soon put fireworks in my pillow-case as to let me have those stimulating people about now.?
Probably in large part because of her oppression, she continues to decline. ?I?m getting really fond of the room in spite of the wallpaper. Perhaps because of the wallpaper. It dwells in the mind so!? Here she is expressing her feelings for the room that she has been forced to live in, as it grows on her. At this point it becomes quite apparent, to the reader, that she is not getting any better. In later lines she talks of herself laying on the bed and trying to follow the lines to their destinations, wherever they might lead. The wallpaper of the room begins to occupy her mind and her writing. Her changing attitudes toward the wallpaper reflect her changing attitudes towards her situation, and eventually towards herself as well. At the beginning she is aware of the influence the wallpaper has on her, and resents it. ?This paper looks to me as if it knew what a vicious influence it had! There is a recurrent spot where the pattern lolls at you like a broken neck and two bulbous eyes stare at you upside down. I get positively angry at the impertinence of it and the everlastingness.? Again and again she asks her husband to take her someplace else, where she might be able to get ?advice and companionship about her work?, at the home of her cousins Henry and Julia. He refuses, of course, since he cannot see what is ?haunting? her and also because he does not want to give in to her ?false and foolish fancy?. He is especially harsh with her when she confesses to him her real worries about her situation. ? ?My darling,? said he, ?I beg of you, for my sake and for our child?s? sake, as well as for your own, that you will never for one instant let that idea enter your mind! There is nothing so dangerous, so fascinating, to a temperament like yours. It is a false and foolish fancy. Can you not trust me as a physician when I tell you so?? ?
Not only does he fail to get her help, but by keeping her virtually a prisoner in a room with nauseating wallpaper and very little to occupy her mind, let alone offer any kind of mental stimulation, he almost forces her to dwell on her problem. Prison is supposed to be depressing, and she is pretty close to being a prisoner. Perhaps if she had been allowed to come and go and do as she pleased her depression might have lifted. ?I think sometimes that if I were only well enough to write a little it would relieve the press of ideas and rest me.? It seems that just being able to tell someone how she really felt would have eased her depression, but John won?t hear of it. The lack of an outlet caused the depression to worsen.
Meanwhile, her reaction is to seek to prove him wrong on his ?prescription?. It seems to me that while putting on an appearance of submission she was frequently rebelling against her husband?s orders. She writes when there is nobody around to see her, she tries to move her bed, but always keeps an eye open for someone coming. The tension between what she considers as her work and what her husband says is her work is clear in her mixed feelings. It is the enforcement of her husband?s opinion, which deprive her of her freedom and pressure her into seeking it in the only way left to her. Even in her madness, she can identify the fact that the circumstances that trapped her and drove her to seek freedom in insanity are not unique.