Gilman utilises madness and hysteria, to present the oppression of women within ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ as it’s clear that the narrator is controlled by her husband, who continuously dismisses her nervous breakdowns as “temporary nervous depression with a slight hysterical tendency”. The use of the adjective ‘slight’ is used to minimise the narrator's symptoms as well as dismiss her thoughts, it could also be used to show how women in society were dismissed, and their views and believes were not taken into account as they were seen as insignificant. This was typical during this time period as many psychiatrists disregarded the causes of nervous disorders, and the treatment for it was often influenced “misogynistic attitudes towards women and female sexuality”. Since, this was during a time when the patriarchal society felt that it was threatened by female ambition, the apparent defence was to label these women as hysterical.
In “Why I Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper” Gilman says that her intention for writing The Yellow Wallpaper to was to bring attention to the devastating effect of ‘Dr Mitchell’s rest and cure treatment’: her purpose ‘was not intended to drive people crazy, but to save them from being driven crazy’. In Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ the wife’s madness has something to do with her husband’s attitudes, because it is, he, who gradually drives her into madness with his limitations and order. It can be argued that John’s subduing gradually leads the narrator to become possessive of the yellow wallpaper which leads to her gradual loss of sanity as her husband’s physical and mental confinement of her, and thus her obsession with the wallpaper could be used to present her desperation to be set free, and John’s constant rejection of her sickness could be used by Gilman as metaphor for the subjugation of women in marriages that take away their power. However, Gilman illustrates the tension within the marriage by presenting the narrator absolute love in the beginning for her husband and her believe that his actions are for her best “He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction” and also “Dear John! He loves me dearly, and hates to have me sick”. However, these phrases seem much more suppressing than caring, it’s as though he has orchestrated his behaviour to seem caring rather than controlling which he is.
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