The Cure is Worse than the Disease in The Yellow Wall Paper
Often times what is meant to help can hinder. Positive intentions do not always bring about desirable effects. The “Yellow Wallpaper” is an example of such an occurrence. In this short story the narrator is detained in a lonesome, drab room in an attempt to free herself of a nervous disorder. During the era in which this narrative was written such practices were considered beneficial. The narrators husband, a physician adheres to this belief and forces his wife into a treatment of solitude. Rather than heal the narrator of her psychological disorder, the treatment only contributes to its effects, driving her into a severe depression.
Under the orders of her husband, the narrator was moved to a house far from society in the country, wherein she is locked into an upstairs room. This environment serves not as an inspiration for mental health but as an element of repression. The locked door and barred windows serves to physically restrain her. “The windows are barred for little children, and there are rings and things in the walls.”(p218). Being exposed to the room’s yellow wallpaper is dreadful and fosters only negative creativity. “The color is hideous enough, and unreliable enough, and infuriating enough, but the pattern is torturing.(p224). All through the story the yellow paper acts as an antagonist causing her to become very annoyed and disturbed. There is nothing to do in the secluded room but stare at the wallpaper. The narrator tells of the haphazard pattern having no organization or symmetrical plot. Her constant examination and reflection of the wallpaper causes her much travail. “I determine for the thousandth time that I will follow that pointless Johnston 2 pattern to some sort of a conclusion.” (p221).
The treatments call for isolation was a repressive factor .The narrator did not believe isolation would cure her disorder. Social contact and outside stimulation was her desire. “I sometimes fancy that in my condition if I had less opposition and more society and stimulus, but John says the worst thing I can do is think about my condition.(p217). She was cut off from society and forbidden from seeing her baby. It is not natural to be confined to little social contact for large amounts of time. Society provides a sundry of different sights, sounds, feelings and stimuli to its inhabitants. To go without outside contact would be living against natures way for man. To fulfill her social need she invents a person she thinks she sees inside the wallpaper. “I didn’t realize for a long time what the thing was that dim sub pattern, but now I am quite sure it is a woman.”(p224). The vision of a woman is clearly an indication of the ill effects caused by prolonged isolation. Her hallucination becomes so vivid that she becomes involved with her imagined character. In a frantic action the now malfunctioning narrator began to try to free the women from behind the wallpaper’s pattern. She destroys yards of the wallpaper. “I pulled and she shook, I shook and she pulled, and before morning we had peeled off yards of that paper.”(p227) The treatment contributes to her impending mental demise She is first diagnosed with a minor nervous disorder. On her last day of treatment she is participating with hallucinations as if they are real. This obviously shows that the appointed cure only serves to fortify the minor illness.
The negative qualities of the rehabilitation regimen causes her to go insane. “I am getting angry enough to do something desperate jump out of the window would be an admirable Johnston 3 exercise.” (228).Towards the end of the story, the narrator is delirious and constantly creeping around the room. Her husband goes into the room and upon seeing his wife in a deranged state creeping through the torn wallpaper falls on the floor and faints. “Now why should that man have fainted? But he did, and right across my path by the wall, so that I had to creep over him every time!”(p229). Clearly this treatment is issued with good intentions, but failes to bring about positive results. The lack of social exposure, physical repression , and ugly wallpaper causes the treatment to be very ineffective and detrimental. The disorder which is being treated is actually strengthened to the point of a serious mental illness. Similarly in today’s society medical and psychological advice may have the same effect. Unfortunately,yellow the downfall of today’s treatment will not be seen until tomorrow. Medical technology and practice have progressed considerably since the time of the “Yellow Wallpaper”, This is not to say that today’s physicians are infallible. Perhaps some of today’s treatments are the “Yellow Wallpaper” of the future.