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When reading “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the reader comes to meet to the narrator and her husband John, who is also her doctor. Throughout the story, we must interpret if the narrator’s downfall was a result of her husband’s controlled treatment.
It must be taken into regards that the time period of this story has an effect on how events were played out especially with the publication year is 1892. Gilman, being a feminist was also a women’s rights activist, writer, wife, and mother. She lived during a time where women were second-class citizens and were kept in positions that prevented them from growing as individuals and from existing outside of their own household. In this short story, the narrator was prescribed the “Rest Cure” which was something that was widely prescribed by doctors at the time, for a whole range of problems they couldn’t get necessarily diagnose.
I can tell why others might see John as the main reason for her illness worsening and her downfall. From the time period this book took place, a woman really didn’t have a say in anything. By the way, she was speaking about her husband you could tell she adores him, but she doesn’t agree with the way he is handling her illness and sadly there was nothing she could have done about this. It wasn’t like she could have just gotten up and left when she didn’t like her treatment, because then they would have sent her away to the other doctor, which was even worse so she had heard. Even though you should be in charge of yourself and your own thoughts and feelings, with a mental illness that is hard to control and her husband/doctor could have helped and made her better but just made the situation worse.
I don’t think he purposely was trying to do any harm. He was just doing what he thought was best for her, but it may not have been the best decision to get her better. During the era that this story was written, women are treated as inferior to men in the society. It has been the norm not just for John, but also for other physicians. John was just following along with what was current medicine for the time. It does seem that because her husband is her caregiver and physician that he is at fault for her illness getting worse. With all that being said I do believe that he truly cares for his wife and merely wants her to become better and stronger. It seems very obvious that during this time frame the medical field was not as progressive as we currently are now.
Medical advancements are not as abundantly available, leaving the “rest cure” as the only option of treatment for some patients. They obviously did not know what we know now and the treatment was a very obvious treatment for what they wanted the cure to be. Rest the mind if you are having a mental breakdown. If you do not write, do not use your imagination, do not worry this will be achieved by putting you in a room so you can rest. Obviously, this made it worse but I do not feel like John knew any better. As a physician, John should have recognized that this was going terribly wrong.
As the readers, we cannot discount that he wasn’t trying to help his wife. I do find her imagination very wild and dynamic though, not neutral. At the beginning of the story, she claims that the color of the room is “repellant, almost revolting; a smoldering unclean yellow. Strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight”. And then at the end of the story, the narrator is infatuated with the yellow wallpaper. The longevity of the rest therapy changes her sense of reality to a great deal. John was not purposefully setting up his wife to fail.
I believe that he was trying to do what is best for her but didn’t know any better than the “Rest Cure”, which ended up leaving her not being able to write, imprisoned in a nursery with yellow wallpaper, and forbidden to work until she got better. Given the setting, John was most likely doing his best for his mentally ill wife. The author did mention at the beginning of the story that John ” is very careful and loving,” which goes to show that even she felt he was sincere to some extent.
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