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Charlotte Perkins Gilmans The Yellow Wallpaper

For John Modern day feminists enjoy looking into the past to find examples of female oppression. This tactic is employed in the hopes of demonstrating that oppression of their sex by the evil male populous has been going on for decades. One such work that is cited by feminists to showcase just how terrible women were treated in the first part of the twentieth century is Charlotte Perkins Gilmans The Yellow Wallpaper. Feminists are quick to point out that the main character in this story is driven down the path of insanity by her uncaring husband.

It is of their opinion that John, the main characters usband, consistently neglects her by keeping her locked away upstairs. Other feminists argue that the main character was not actually insane, rather, she was pushed into a temporary state of delirium as a result of the state of confinement that her husband subjected her to. These same feminists will say that Johns consistent misdiagnosis of his wifes condition smacks of incompetence. It is their theory that if the main character were a man during this same period of time, doctors would have treated the condition differently.

In other words, men were not diagnosed with hysteria and bedridden for three onths when they became depressed. As mentioned before, this is what some modern day feminists think. This is in stark contrast to the interpretation by us modern day realists. John was a good husband that cared deeply about his wifes condition. He is described at the beginning of the story as being a physician in high standing (The Norton Anthology, p. 658). This description alone offers deep insight into what kind of treatment his wife was receiving.

It is hard to imagine that any woman who is married to an extremely prominent doctor is going to receive anything less than highest quality of treatment vailable. Johns love for his wife is further exemplified by him obtaining a nanny to watch over the baby until she recovers. He wanted her full, complete recovery to come about in an expedited manner. He obviously was aware of the strain caring for a baby puts upon a lady. Oppressive husbands are more akin to piling all of the burdens of child rearing and house maintenance upon their wives.

Here, we have just the opposite. John did everything within his power to relieve the everyday stresses of his beloved wife by acquiring the services of a nanny. His wife was cognizant of this fact, for she plainly states the John loves her dearly, and hates to have her sick (The Norton Anthology, p. 662). The next myth that needs to be dispelled is that of John keeping his wife locked away in the house, thereby causing her to go insane. Feminists would like us to believe that John locked his wife away in a drab, musty cell, forbidding her to venture outside.

The story paints a starkly different picture. At the beginning of the story, the character speaks rather fondly of the room, calling it as airy and comfortable a room as any one need wish (The Norton Anthology, p. 60). By her utterances here, one can quite easily ascertain that she is indeed comfortable in her new surroundings. The character is also of absolute liberty to explore the rose garden outside at anytime that she wished. This is proven true by two crucial examples from the story.

The first is taken from the characters own mouth, from when she directly states that she walks a little in the garden or down that lovely lane, [and] sit[s] on the porch under the roses (The Norton Anthology, p. 662). By her own admission, she is able to wander outside upon her own free will. The second example that demonstrates the level of freedom that resides with her is the fact that her husband is away all day, and even some nights, attending to other patients. If John is not there to ensure that she is being locked up, how then can one deduce that he is stripping her of any freedoms?

She was at complete liberty to move about as she so desired, for absolutely nobody was there to stop her from acting upon her own free will. She stayed inside most of the day primarily because she wished to. The next controversy explored here is that of whether or not the wife was insane y nature, or if it was John that pushed her into the realm of madness. Some feminists may argue that John clearly was responsible for the deteriorating condition of his dearly beloved. Again, the realists interpretation is extremely different.

Nothing that John could have done would have done anything to prevent the inevitability of his wifes transformation into an insane lunatic. She seems to be fine at the beginning of the story. Her thoughts and words are testimony to that of a person suffering from extreme boredom. As the story unfolds, her thoughts turn into rather bizarre and nonsensical ramblings bout women trapped behind the yellow wallpaper that decorates the room. At one points, she writes down that she thought seriously of burning down the house (The Norton Anthology, p. 666).

That definitely is not the rationale exhibited by sane individuals. John, meanwhile, consistently reassures her that she is getting better. He notes her color coming back and her appetite returning. Physically, she was getting better. John was a doctor, not a psychologist, therefore, his treatment of her physical ailments were indeed working. There was nothing that he could have done for her mental deterioration. If blame is to be administered to any character for the mental breakdown of Johns wife, then she herself must be held accountable for her own insanity.

It was she, whom by exercising her own free will, decided not to venture outside anymore. Again, at the beginning of the story, she remarks rather freely about how she liked to sit on the porch under the roses. As madness strengthens the hold upon her cerebrum, she loses her interest in going outside. She ventured outside toward the end of the story, only to remark that she found no appeal in the outdoors. Johns wife longed for the yellowness of the upstairs room. She had found a sudden lack of fondness for the greenery that was showcased outside of the friendly confines of the yellow room.

Of course, the most damning piece of evidence against the theory that John caused his wifes insanity by keeping her locked inside the house reveals itself at the end of the story. The female heroine writes for us that she locked herself inside the house and threw the key onto the footpath. This is extremely problematic if the theory that John was keeping his wife locked away is to be believed. If he was keeping her locked up, why did she have access to the key? The mere fact that she had a key indicates that she was there upon her own free will.

The second piece of evidence displayed that vindicates John comes when she locks herself inside of the house. If she knew that she was going insane because of the actions of her husband, and longed to be outside, why then did she lock herself inside? John was said to be gone all day and, in particular, that night. If she were feeling as oppressed as some would have us to believe, she would have taken that golden pportunity to flee the so-called dungeon that her husband had created for her.

It can only be assumed that she enjoyed the prison that she created for herself since she didnt flee at any moment of opportunity. In summary, John should be championed as a role model for all aspiring husbands. He consistently showed complete devotion and concern for his wife throughout the story. He did everything within his power to make sure that she would have an expedited recovery from her ailments. John bent over backwards to ensure that all of his wifes needs were taken care of. Leave it to modern day feminists to find harm in that.

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Home » John locke » Charlotte Perkins Gilmans The Yellow Wallpaper

Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”

Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” is an observation on the male oppression of women in a patriarchal society. The story itself presents an interesting look at one woman’s struggle to deal with both mental and physical confinement. Through Gilman’s writing the reader becomes aware of the mental and physical confinement, which the narrator endures, and the overall effect and reaction to this confinement. The story begins with the narrators description of the physically confining elements surrounding her.

The setting is cast in an isolated colonial mansion, set back from the road and three miles from the village (674). The property contains hedges that surround the garden, walls that surround the mansion, and locked gates that guarantee seclusion. Even the connected garden represents confinement, with box-bordered paths and grape covered arbors. This image of isolation continues in the mansion. Although she prefers the downstairs room with roses all over the windows that opened on the piazza the narrator finds herself consigned to an out of the way dungeon-like nursery on the second floor.

The windows in the nursery provide views of the garden, arbors, bushes, and trees(674). These views reinforce isolationism since, the beauty can be seen from the room but not touched or experienced. There is a gate at the head of the stairs, presumably to keep children contained in their play area of the upstairs with the nursery. Additionally, the bed is immoveable ” I lie here on this great immovable bed- it is nailed down, I believe-and follow that pattern about by the hour” (678).

It is here in this position of physical confinement that the narrator secretly describes her descent into madness. Although the physical confinement drains the narrators strength and will, the mental and emotional confinement symbolized in the story play an important role in her ultimate fall into dementia. By being forced to be her own company she is confined within her mind. Likewise part of the narrators mental confinement stems from her recognition of her physical confinement. The depression the narrator has experienced associated with child bearing is mentally confining as well.

It is fortunate Mary is good with the baby. Such a dear Baby! And yet I cannot be with him, it makes me so nervous”(675). Specifically, she cannot control her emotion or manage her guilt over her inability to care for her child. These structures of confinement contribute to the rapid degeneration of her state of mind. As the wife of a prominent physician in the late nineteenth century, the narrators assumption of a typical female role illustrates one aspect of the mental and physical confinement present within both story and the society.

She is subservient and deferential to John her husband who enjoys the power traditionally associated with his sex and additional authority afforded him by his status as a doctor. John’s behavior illustrates his authoritarian efforts to control his wife as well. He tries to have the narrator’s brother who is a physician, to corroborate his diagnosis and prescribed cure, making it even more difficult for the narrator to challenge the prescription herself. The narrator complains, “John does not know how much I really suffer.

He knows there is no reason to suffer and that satisfies him”(675). Johns contempt for his wife ideas is obvious; he refers to her as “little girl” and when she requests that she be moved to a different room downstairs, he took [her] in his arms and called [her] a blessed little goose, and said he would go down to the cellar, if [she] wished, and have it white washed into the bargain”(675). After he said all this they still stayed in the upstairs room with the bed attached to the floor.

The relationship between John and his wife would be disagreeable in today’s modern’s relationship. Today, most women crave equality with their partner, which is what narrator doesn’t have. The story is a fascinating look into the mind of a woman slipping deeper and deeper in to mental and physical illness because of her husband’s enforcement of her mental and physical confinement. It is also however, clearly a statement of how absurd the confines society places on the women of her time effect extreme consequences for the women who attempt to break free from those confines.

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