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THE YELLOW WALLPAPER

By

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

 Question 4.       How would you characterize the relationship between the narrator and her husband? What’s the husband’s character according to his actions/words?

 The relationship between the narrator and her husband is one of a typical marriage of the 19th century. He is the “breadwinner”, a chauvinistic male who treats his wife in an infantile manner that can seen symbolically in his choice of where they will sleep for their time at that mansion, namely the nursery! John is a practical physician who believes that his wife is suffering from nothing more than a “slight hysterical tendency”. His opposition toward her imagination stems from his own rationality and personal anxiety about creativity from his wife who is having a hard time conforming to the chauvinistic demands of the time period. He is fixed in his authoritative position as husband and does not consider her opinion when she raises her displeasure about the way she is being treated and wanting to visit her cousins. He believes in a strict divide between men and women where men work outside of the home, as he does, while women tend to the house. He doesn’t realize his own actions are pushing her over the deep end.

 The narrator speaks of her husband in a way a child looks up to their hero, she speaks with the utmost love and affection and behaviors indicative of the deep social engineering of that time saying things like “Dear John! He loves me very dearly, and hates to have me sick”. However, she is fully capable of thinking for herself and slivers of her own self-will creep slowly to the surface where they are met by his profound uninterest and are diffused before they fully materialize into fruition that speaks of a burgeoning feminist. Instead she exhibits a sort of paranoia towards being caught writing, albeit warranted as she is expressly forbidden to do so, nevertheless she resorts to trickery, secret-keeping and hiding her writings. The relationship has this prisoner-warden causality where she is dominated in a patronizing manner by John. She isn’t to go visit her cousins because such stimulation would inflame her condition, she isn’t to write because imagination and creativity would result in a taxing experience for her and all she can do is essentially rest and sleep all day. He maps out precisely what her actions are each day and she follows to the letter with the exception of the writing which she does in secrecy. The narrator is in effect a prisoner of her husband, the mansion they are staying in and her own unraveling psyche and the bars on the windows speak of this symbolic imprisonment

 As the story moves forward John continues to treat his wife in an infantile manner. He refers to her as “little goose” and “blessed little thing” as well as “little girl”. The relationship has gone even farther away from marriage and more of a father-daughter situation. To compound this, she is feeling insecure about not being able to tend to her baby and be the perfect mother and wife like she is expected to be. Instead there’s John’s sister, Jennie who is seen as that perfect housewife stereotype and takes care of the duties around the house while the narrator recovers. Then there is Mary, who takes care of the baby and these two women thus replace the narrator as wife. To further add to this John asserts his position as her husband and more so her physician choosing to deny her request to remove the wallpaper because he feels that to do this would be in direct contradiction to his prescribed treatment of her condition saying that “nothing was worse for a nervous patient than to give way to such fancies”.

 John says to the narrator that she must take care of herself for his sake and that she is all he had, his “darling comfort”. He goes further and says that she must exhibit more self-control in dealing with her imagination and to resist the urge to give in to her fancies. What’s ironic is the fact that he’s telling her she needs to be more proactive yet he’s the one controlling her and telling her what to do and even if she begins to make the effort she is completely shot down and rejected by him and ordered to do otherwise. His condescending behavior only serves to incite suspicion in her as her mental condition worsens. She begins to distrust her husband and his sister and believe him to be “pretending” to love her. In her insanity she remarkably comes to the realization that John and the societal constraints on women are to blame for her imprisonment and her deliberate actions of ripping off the wallpaper on the wall is symbolic of her new found freedom. When John arrives and witnesses this he faints and now the tables have turned as she is now the superior one since he couldn’t even sustain his own consciousness and her stepping over him further strengthens her new found superiority over him.

 822 words

 Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Literature: An Introduction to Reading and
{Tab once] Writing. 4th compact ed. Ed. Edgar V. Roberts. Upper Saddle River, NJ:Pearson{Tab once] Education, Inc., 2008. 408-418.



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Thank you for your timely work--I've SCADmailed you and updated your online score.

Have a great night.
Best,
Prof. Kim

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