The Yellow Wallpaper - Journey into Insanity

In "The Yellow Wallpaper", by Charlotte Perkins Gilman,
the dominant/submissive relationship between an oppressive
husband and his submissive wife pushes her from depression
into insanity.

Flawed human nature seems to play a great role in her
breakdown. Her husband, a noted physician, is unwilling to
admit that there might really be something wrong with his
wife. This same attitude is seen in her brother, who is also
a physician. While this attitude, and the actions taken
because of it, certainly contributed to her breakdown; it
seems to me that there is a rebellious spirit in her.

Perhaps unconsciously she seems determined to prove them
wrong.

As the story begins, the woman -- whose name we never
learn -- tells of her depression and how it is dismissed by
her husband and brother. "You see, he does not believe I am
sick! And what can one do? If a physician of high
standing, and one\'s own husband, assures friends and
relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one
but temporary nervous depression -- a slight hysterical
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tendency -- what is one to do?" (Gilman 193). These two
men -- both doctors -- seem completely unable to admit that
there might be more to her condition than than just stress
and a slight nervous condition. Even when a summer in the
country and weeks of bed-rest don\'t help, her husband
refuses to accept that she may have a real problem.

Throughout the story there are examples of the dominant
- submissive relationship. She is virtually imprisoned in
her bedroom, supposedly to allow her to rest and recover her
health. She is forbidden to work, "So I . . . am absolutely
forbidden to "work" until I am well again." (Gilman 193).

She is not even supposed to write: "There comes John, and I
must put this away -- he hates to have me write a word."
(Gilman 194).

She has no say in the location or decor of the room she
is virtually imprisoned in: "I don\'t like our room a bit.

I wanted . . . But John would not hear of it." (Gilman
193).

She can\'t have visitors: "It is so discouraging not
to have any advice and companionship about my work. . . but
he says he would as soon put fireworks in my pillow-case as
to let me have those stimulating people about now." (Gilman
196).

Probably in large part because of her oppression, she
continues to decline. "I don\'t feel as if it was worthwhile
to turn my hand over for anything. . ." (Gilman 197). It
seems that her husband is oblivious to her declining
conditon, since he never admits she has a real problem until
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the end of the story -- at which time he fainted.

John could have obtained council from someone less
personally involved in her case, but the only help he seeks
was for the house and baby. He obtains a nanny to watch
over the children while he was away at work each day: "It
is fortunate Mary is so good with the baby." (Gilman 195).

And he had his sister Jennie take care of the house. "She
is a perfect and enthusiastic housekeeper." (Gilman 196).

He does talk of taking her to an expert: "John says if I
don\'t pick up faster he shall send me to Weir Mitchell in
the fall." But she took that as a threat since he was even
more domineering than her husband and brother.

Not only does he fail to get her help, but by keeping
her virtually a prisoner in a room with nauseating wallpaper
and very little to occupy her mind, let alone offer any kind
of mental stimulation, he almost forces her to dwell on her
problem. Prison is supposed to be depressing, and she is
pretty close to being a prisoner.

Perhaps if she had been allowed to come and go and do
as she pleased her depression might have lifted: "I think
sometimes that if I were only well enough to write a little
it would relieve the press of ideas and rest me." (Gilman
195). It seems that just being able to tell someone how she
really