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Review Essay on Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s the Yellow Wallpaper

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“The Yellow Wallpaper” was written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in 1892. This story is about a distraught young women being confined to an attic room by her husband whom is also a doctor. The room is an old nursery with hideous yellow wallpaper and strong thick bars on the windows. The relationship between the husband and wife in the yellow wallpaper is a bit manipulative and controlling on the husband’s part. Him being a doctor, her being a women, and it taking place in the nineteenth century are all things that develop their relationship. John is a physician who thinks since he is a doctor he knows what’s best for his wife. He does care for his wife, and he wants to help her, but he treats her like his patient and now his wife. By the end of this story, his wife will see that and be grateful for him trying to help her, but she doesn’t love him anymore because he doesn’t show he loves her. His wife mentions in the beginning of the story, that her husband laughs and makes fun of her. “John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage.” In reality all she is trying to do is be a loving and caring wife, but he makes that very hard on her. Her husband doesn’t believe she’s sick and makes it very clear that he doesn’t want her working. She believes that she really is sick, but to keep peace between her and her husband, she acts like she isn’t. The narrator likes to write and thinks it will help her get better, but John thinks that the writing is what is making her sick, so she has to keep her journal a secret. John and her brother both think she just has temporary nervous depression and that she is not sick at all. “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 tendency – what is one to do?”

Earlier readings of “The Yellow Wallpaper” provide valuable insight into the ways in which Gilman’s story chronicles how women have been socially, historically, and medically constructed as not only weak, but sick beings. Since John is the man of the house and this was dated back to when women were not acknowledged, he believed he had more authority over her because she was a woman. He treated her like a child and acted controlling towards her, this would make her angry at times. “I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes.” She didn’t understand why she got so angry with him; she was apparently a very reasonable person. She believed her illness is what made her act this way towards him. It frustrates her because she wants him to treat her like his wife, not like his kid. He is careful and loving towards her, but the fact that he likes to feel in control of her makes him seem manipulative and controlling. She feels when your in a marriage your suppose to be equal, everything is suppose to be half and half. In this marriage though, she feels he is in 100% control of her and everything she does. In his eyes, she is just a nothing or a nobody. He thinks he is taking care of her by keeping her locked up and away from everything, but the truth is that’s what is making her lose her mind and go insane. This is just evidence that all signs point to a forced relationship, which is somewhat polite but mostly is tense and unhappy. As we come to the end of the story, she slowly loses control of her mental state. The anger that she’s kept bottled up for John comes out resulting in her locking him out of the room and refusing to let him in to help her.

Women in the nineteenth century were often perceived as weak and was told what to do. Men controlled the family and the household. Women were not aloud to make any important or even non-important decisions. Basically saying they were slaves to the men. Women were expected to live their lives by cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the children. They stereotyped women as private, dependent, unable to resist temptation, not sexual, and the list goes on. They stereotyped men as powerful, active, brave, logical, Independent, sexual, and many more. As you can see, these traits are complete opposites of each other. This makes men and women not have one thing in common. Women were not supposed to have any sexual contact before marriage. Whereas men were supposed to have premarital sex with servants or prostitutes. These are just some examples of how different men and women were treated. “Even if we should remove every legal and political discrimination against women; even if we should accept their true dignity and power as a sex. The wonder is not that so many women break down, but so few.” This means to me, that men fear women because they are so strong and have the power to choose if they want to break down or not. Men really don’t have this choice, so they like to be in control.

“The yellow Wallpaper” was truly a great story. It explained to us how women were treated by men in the nineteenth century. John was a great doctor, but he was a terrible husband. He let his need to help people get in his way and ended up treating his wife like a patient. She was mentally unstable and ill and he was blinded to those facts. With him being a doctor, the narrator being a woman, and it taking place in the nineteenth century, their relationship was unhealthy and controlling. John’s wife was an unhappy and controlled woman, and by the end of the story, she was completely insane.

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