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Doctor Knows Best Essay Research Paper Doctor

Doctor Knows Best Essay, Research Paper Doctor Knows Best Often human illness calls for medical attention to acquire both soundness of body and mind. Opinions from medical professionals are sought after by those individuals seeking reassurance and peace of mind in knowing they will receive the best possible treatment.

Doctor Knows Best Essay, Research Paper

Doctor Knows Best

Often human illness calls for medical attention to acquire both soundness of body and mind. Opinions from medical professionals are sought after by those individuals seeking reassurance and peace of mind in knowing they will receive the best possible treatment. In her short story ?The Yellow Wallpaper,? Charlotte Perkins Gilman presents a situation where a respected professional, medical opinion contradicts those thoughts and desires of the patient. The ?wife,? and narrator, in the story suffers a long-drawn depression following the birth of her daughter. In an attempt to remedy her ailment, the character ?John,? a physician as well as the narrator?s husband, prescribes rest and isolation as the cure for his wife?s mental illness. It is apparent by the end of the story that such treatment not only failed to cure his wife?s disorder, but further intensified her unstable condition. Many scholars offer other underlying explanations in exploring the narrator?s sickness. Leslie Fishbein, in her review To Herland and Beyond: The Life and Work of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, points out that the narrator?s ailment is credited to ?a domestic role that ill fit her character and talents? (1116). On the other hand, it was the fact that John ignored the narrator?s personal desires that ultimately led to her severe paranoia and depression.

The wife is aware of aspects in her life that, given individual freedom from her husband, would aid in her recovery. The narrator believes that ?congenial work, with

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excitement and change, would do [her] good.? She then questions her ideas, ?But what is one to do?? (404). The wife refers to the fact that both John and her brother are physicians and their professional opinion, in the eyes of society, must be regarded above all. The narrator again takes a stand with her personal view of achieving wellness. ??If I had less opposition and more society and stimulus- but John says that the very worst thing I can do is to think about my condition, and I confess it always makes me feel bad? (404). She desires such contact and wants to achieve personal wellness. However, John acts as a steady influence, controlling and limiting the thoughts and feelings of his wife. Margaret Delashmit and Charles Long, in their article Gilman?s The Yellow Wallpaper, refer to John in similar light. ?Although he presents himself as a caring and loving husband, he is overbearing and unknowingly cruel to the point of deserving censure? (32). Gilman presents John as the overseer, putting forth guidelines that deprive his wife of happiness.

The narrator makes excuses that not only contradict her own feelings, but comply with the wishes of her husband as well. Gilman uses such excuses to emphasize the character?s insecurities and lack of self-confidence. The narrator uses the country home to excuse her own ideas in light of her husband. ?So I will let it alone and talk about the house. The most beautiful place!? (404). In disagreeing with the manner in which John treats her, the narrator turns to her mental disorder as a reason for her sensitivity. ?I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes. I think it is due to this nervous condition? (404). She places the blame on herself and her prescribed medicine for suppressing what she feels would bring her to proper health. ??So I take pains to control myself- before

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him, at least, and that makes me very tired? (404). The narrator utilizes such treatment as an excuse to obey John and his professional opinion. In addition, she turns to love to excuse for John disregarding her emotions. ?It is so hard to talk with John about my case, because he is so wise, and because he loves me so? (410). As she is left alone for a majority of each day, the narrator wants the same attention from John that he gives his patients. ?John is away all day, and even some nights when his cases are serious. I am glad my case is not serious!? (405). Again, the wife turns to a positive, sarcastic excuse to deny the pain she feels from the neglect of her husband. It seems as though the narrator has an idea of what would help her to regain stability. However, it is the manner which she oversees John?s control that further aggravates her condition.

Writing, which John does not approve of, becomes an escape for the narrator in being the only way to express her feelings. She is trapped in a world bounded by those who refuse to listen to her opinions. In reference to her journal, the wife questions the desire to think for herself. ?I don?t know why I should write this. And I know John would think it absurd. But I must say what I feel and think in some way- it is such a relief! (409). The narrator?s journal is the only objective ear that actually listens to her thoughts and ideas. John, in his effort to retain control over his wife, fills her head with concepts that please only him and believes that writing will only hinder her recovery. He is the ?domineering male? that is ??warring against her very being, her unique self? (Delashmit 33). Keeping her writing a secret is responsible for deceitful intentions and exhausts her own will to regain mental health. ?I did write for a while in spite of them; but it does exhaust me a good deal- having to be so sly about it, or else meet with heavy

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opposition? (404). The narrator only writes when she is alone and is forced to conceal her true thoughts when John is present.

John ignores her personal expression feeling confident that prescription medication is the only way his wife will recover. It seems as though the medication that John urges his wife to take hinders her ability to write. She tires easily, ?it does exhaust me a good deal,? and admits that ?we have been here for two weeks, and I haven?t felt like writing before, since that first day? (405). Perhaps it is John?s intention to drain her emotion both physically and mentally, therefore inabling her to not only write but think for herself as well. Similar to John?s medical treatment, John Bak, author of Escaping the jaundiced eye: Foucauldian panopticism in Charlotte Perkins Gilman?s ?The Yellow Wallpaper,? suggests that ??both companionship and work proved a detriment to his patient?s recovery, further taxing her nerves already frazzled from an admixture of hysteria and postpartum depression? (39). Medicine, in John?s eyes, will help his wife regain the focus to maintain a healthy life. Again, the narrator refers back to the medication and confinement- ?But the effort is getting to be greater than the relief? (409). At this point the narrator realizes that not only do the drugs exhaust her, but also concealing her thoughts from others is paying a toll on her strength.

With such disregard for the narrator?s feelings, John compels her to isolation that further weakens her mental condition as she notices various trends amongst the wallpaper. She is confined, for the most part, to a ?big, airy room? with windows that look all ways, and air and sunshine galore? (405). The narrator becomes obsessed with the wallpaper, which Gilman describes as ?repellant, almost revolting; a smouldering

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unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight? (405). Under the influence of mind-altering medication and forbidden to associate with others, the narrator can do nothing else but obsess over the minute details of her personal ?cell.? In fact, her anguish is reflected in the way she brings the wallpaper to life, giving it characteristics similar to that of her own condition. ?It is dull enough to confuse the eye in following, pronounced enough to constantly irritate and provoke study?? (405). John looks upon the narrator with an uncertain eye, just as she views the wallpaper. She reacts to the color of the wallpaper just as John does to her depression in that both have jumped to conclusions. The narrator?s illness provokes her husband enough that he constantly reminds her that medication and rest are the best remedy. The wallpaper raises the wife?s curiosity in an attempt to find the truth behind the pattern. ??And when you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide- plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard-of contradictions? (405). Gilman foreshadows a tragic end for the wife, which the character can see for herself in observing the wallpaper. As the narrator?s life is filled with uncertainties without proper answers, the end of the story climaxes her paranoia as her actions reflect a loss of sanity.

As a result of John?s ignorance, the narrator confides in the wallpaper, which becomes a reflection of her own life in a state of severe depression. In reference to the wallpaper, Gilman uses descriptive words with dual meanings. ?On a pattern like this, by daylight, there is a lack of sequence, a defiance of law, that is a constant irritant to a normal mind? (411). There is a ?lack of sequence? to the narrator?s life, seeming as though her mental breakdown follows such a miraculous event in the birth of her child.

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However, she defies gratification with her depression, and is constantly misunderstood by her husband. For John, her condition is both abnormal and an irritation to his professional, ?normal mind?. The narrator struggles with the idea of containing her depression and having to conquer it on her own. ?You think you have mastered it, but just as you get well under way in following, it turns a back-somersault and there you are. It slaps you in the face, knocks you down, and tramples on you. It is like a bad dream? (411). Her obsession with the wallpaper becomes a self-analyzation of her decline in mental health. Just when she thinks she can overcome depression, like the pattern in the wallpaper, her world is flipped upside down with uncertainty. As she struggles to discover the woman behind the wallpaper, the narrator notices, ??she is all the time trying to climb through. But nobody could climb through that pattern- it strangles so; I think that is why it has so many heads. They get through, and then the pattern strangles them off and turns them upside down?? (414). The pattern in the wallpaper represents the overwhelming influence that John has over his wife. She is trying to break through and overcome her depression, however she is ?strangled? with no one to listen to her wants and desires. In her final attempt to communicate with John, the narrator rips the wallpaper off the walls in defiance. ?I?ve got out at last? in spite of you?! And I?ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can?t put me back!? (417). Such an alarming action is seen as the wife?s final attempt to gain the attention of her husband, who faints in astonishment. John?s reaction is significant in that he is shocked because his prescription of rest, isolation, and medication have deteriorated his wife?s mental stability.

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John is the overbearing male presence in the narrator?s life that keeps her from achieving ideal health. Gilman?s ?The Yellow Wallpaper? is a struggle between the narrator?s will to gain self-confidence in the midst of John?s professional, medical advice. The wife has a feeling that escaping her confinement and interacting with others will enable her to be able to regain mental stability and care for her child, as well as her husband. With each bit of hope, John is the ?domineering? (Delashmit33) figure that inhibits the narrator?s personal expression with his selfishness and ?I know what?s best for you? mentality. Behind Gilman?s ?The Yellow Wallpaper? lies a woman suppressed by thoughts and desires of which are not her own, but those of her husband.

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Works Cited

Bak, John S. ?Escaping the jaundiced eye: Foucauldian Panopticism in Charlotte Perkins

Gilman?s ?The Yellow Wallpaper.?? Studies in Short Fiction 31 (1994) : 39-44.

Delashmit, Charles and Margaret Long. ?Gilman?s The Yellow Wallpaper.? The

Explicator 50 (1991) : 32-33.

Fishbein, Leslie. ?To Herland and Beyond: The Life and Work of Charlotte Perkins

Gilman.? The Journal of American History 80 (1993) : 1116.

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Works Cited

Bak, John S. ?Escaping the jaundiced eye: Foucauldian Panopticism in Charlotte Perkins

Gilman?s ?The Yellow Wallpaper.?? Studies in Short Fiction 31 (1994) : 39-44.

Delashmit, Charles and Margaret Long. ?Gilman?s The Yellow Wallpaper.? The

Explicator 50 (1991) : 32-33.

Fishbein, Leslie. ?To Herland and Beyond: The Life and Work of Charlotte Perkins

Gilman.? The Journal of American History 80 (1993) : 1116.

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