Portfolio: Part Two
12 December 2012
“The Yellow Wallpaper,” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a short story that focuses on the female narrator’s unstable condition. As a woman living in a society where males are dominant, the narrator has no control over her own life, which is one of the main causes of her illness worsening and her madness forming. The growth of her madness throughout the story is portrayed by her change in respect towards her husband, her feelings towards the wallpaper, and her delusion of picturing herself as the woman behind the wallpaper. Instead of the “rest cure,” (a popular cure during the late 19th century that’s theory was to do nothing but rest in a room) helping her recover, it resulted in the ultimate cause for her madness to thrive and her delusion to build.
In the beginning of the story, the narrator’s husband, John, believes he knows what is best for her health. Because John is her husband and a physician, he is of high standing in the community. She trusts that he only wants what is best for her health, and knows better than her; she listens to him. Although she trusts him, she believes that rest and isolation from society are not the ideal cure. She feels that the ideal cure would be “congenial work, with excitement and change” (Gilman 339) because then she would not be isolated from society, away from her child, and feel trapped. The only way she is able to express her feelings is to write in her notebook because she doesn’t want to say the wrong thing to John. This shows her lack of self-esteem and nervous condition. She wishes she could write in her notebook more freely, but is unable to because she knows John would not allow it. Hiding her feelings in her notebook from her husband becomes a hardship for her because she can’t tell him how she really feels. Her unhealthy relationship with her husband causes her to lack respect for him. She no longer trusts him, and claims that he “asked her all sorts of questions too, and pretended to be very loving and kind”(Gilman 349). She doesn’t believe that he actually loves and cares about her because he is never around to care for her. He is always at work during the day and sometimes at night too. She gains suspicion from him, interesting her about her wellness and the paper. She begins to become even more and more delusional throughout the story. She forms suspicions that her husband knows something about what’s behind the wallpaper, and it irritates her because she doesn’t want anyone else to discover what is behind it.
Throughout the story, the narrator’s relationship with the wallpaper progresses, making it her only companion. In the beginning of the story she hates the color and pattern of it because it irritates her by making her feel uncomfortable, but then it begins to grow on her. She begins to talk to it and treat it unlike any other wall. She blames it for slowing the process of her recovering from her “illness”, and she says that it “knew what a vicious influence it had!” (Gilman 341). She starts to analyze the pattern more closely, and comes across the idea that a woman is trapped behind it. She dwells on the wallpaper, and the woman behind it becomes more real to her each day. The wallpaper is no longer a burden, it is appealing and fascinating to her. “It is so pleasant to be out in this great room and creep around as I please”(Gilman 350). Her obsession of the wallpaper becomes a secret, and something that she can keep from John, without him controlling her. She is able to escape to another mindset through the wallpaper. Her obsession makes her almost vicious and animal like. She tears off the wallpaper and even tries to move the bed that is supposedly bolted to the floor. She goes to even further extremes: “I got so angry I bit off a little piece at one corner”(Gilman 350). Her behavior is inappropriate and her madness has worsened at this point of the story. She doesn’t sleep at night