In Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” The author uses the narrator to explain her relationship between the narrator and the house, representing how the narrator’s mental health gets worse while the relationship between her husband and her gets worse. It shows what she sees in the house, how her husband treats her and does not accept that she is ill. This story represents how relationships can affect mental illness and how, when one person does not understand or acknowledge that they have a mental illness, it causes the other person to start to have different ways of expressing it and coping. Still, it drives them to be worse off than they were before. I will go into depth on the relationship between John and the narrator, the house, and the narrator, and also how her writing is her true feelings of what is going on.
This story begins with John not believing that the narrator’s illness is real since he tells her that the “more she stimulates herself, the worse her condition will get.”(Gilman, p.648) This gives us a glimpse of the relationship between John and the narrator. This is where we learn that she is writing the whole story in secret from her husband. The story she is writing is biased because the entire time, we are reading from her perspective. When John tells her that “the very worst thing I can do is think about my condition,”(Gilman, p.648) it shows that John is the dominating one in the relationship while his wife is passive, which shows when he tells her the worst thing she can do is think about her illness. In response to that, he tells her to then focus on the house instead. John tells her to then think about the place that reflects more on their relationship and how John believes that the woman should be relegated to the domestic part of society. The way that John treats her is old fashion, and the way that he is dismissive of her illness has happened to cause all of the crazy that happens later in the short story. Not only does his dismissiveness of her condition cause her to get crazier, but the old fashion thinking of women being useful for only domestic duties gets worse as the story goes on.
Once John has told his wife that she cannot think about her illness, he puts her in a small room upstairs with yellow wallpaper and, she begins to obsess over the house. The house “is quite alone,”(Gilman, p.648) which she also is. As the narrator is writing in secret, she first described the place as alone away from the road and far from the village, so the home itself is isolated. The house itself represents how she is isolated and detached from the world because she is stuck alone in this house, far away from society. When Gilman wrote the story, people did not widely accept mental illness. The aloneness also adds to her becoming more mentally ill as the story goes on since she has nothing else to think about other than whatever is in her mind. The narrator is all alone and away from society. But she is also stuck in a room upstairs that she does not like at all. She states that “He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction,”(Gilman, p.648) but I think he did this with the intent of her being as hidden as possible. Since John put her upstairs in a room that is closer to where an attic would be, and people put things in the attic when they want to forget about it. The narrator is so alone and forgotten about since she seems to be a disgrace to society, and John helps to make her feel more and more alone.
The room that the narrator is in she hates. “the windows are barred for little children,”(Gilman, p.648),“The color is repellant, almost revolting; a smoldering, unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight.”(Gilman, p.6489. The fact that the windows are barred is another symbol of her being trapped. John putting her in a children’s room shows how she is alone, and John does not look at her as an equal but as a child. The fact that she also hates the place shows that she is beginning to become more upset with her husband since he is the one who did this to her. The way she describes the room with so much disgust reflects on her and her husband’s relationship. He does not believe in her illness and does not even let her write, so as she writes in secret, she gets crazier and sees things in a new light. Once she is done describing the room for the first time, she then hears John, “there comes John, and I must put this away- he hates to have me write a word.”(Gilman, p.649) She is so scared and oppressed by her husband that everything she does is secret from him. He does not understand how bad her illness is getting and how she feels about him. When she writes, she will say how John is so kind and how he takes care of her. But when she describes the house, which she does represent what she is thinking, you can feel the hatred of the house and her hatred of her husband and how he does not treat her as an equal. The negative impact of John’s gender oppression causes the narrator to manifest her mental illness. While she’s stuck in her room, she begins to hate it more and see things in the wallpaper.
This story is a story of mental illness and gender oppression. It is reflected in the way of looking at mental illness and the effects on a married relationship. The way that the narrator uses the house to represent how she feels about her mental health and relationship proves that she is getting worse and worse since she can truly express how she feels in her writing. The narrator is hidden from society and not given the help she needs, which allows her to manifest her illness and go into a downward spiral, causing everything to explode at the end of the story.
Cooper, Carol. “Main Menu.” MCSM RamPage, 30 Oct. 2019, mcsmrampage.com/2019/10/short-story/.
“House of Horror: the Poisonous Power of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 7 Feb. 2020, www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2020/feb/07/charlotte-perkins-gilman-yellow-wallpaper-strangeness-classic-short-story-exhibition.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Sakai, ENGL105.091.FA20, posted by Paul Blom, 31 July 2020. Originally published in New England Magazine, 1892.
Justis, Bill, director. The Yellow Wallpaper. The Yellow Wallper, 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=btM_89g_NoE.
Lucking, Liz. “700-Year-Old English Country House Asks £3.7 Million.” Mansion Global, Mansion Global, 12 June 2018, www.mansionglobal.com/articles/700-year-old-english-country-house-asks-3-7-million-99888.
Pink Grape Snack, director. Faces of Depression 1959 Psychiatric Interviews, 2019, www.youtube.com/watch?v=1uijWUhxe-4.
“Redirect Notice.” Google, Google, www.google.com/url?sa=i.
“The Yellow Wallpaper ~ House Crazy Sarah.” House Crazy Sarah, 14 Oct. 2019, housecrazysarah.life/2019/10/13/the-yellow-wallpaper/.
“The Yellow Wallpaper.” Portland Downtown, www.portlandmaine.com/events/the-yellow-wallpaper-3/.
21, Greer Macallister March. “The Lesser Known Life Behind’The Yellow Wallpaper’.” Literary Hub, 29 Mar. 2019, lithub.com/the-lesser-known-life-behindthe-yellow-wallpaper/.