Why Did John Faint at the End of The Yellow Wallpaper?

Updated 28 August, 2023
In "The Yellow Wallpaper," John faints at the end due to shock and horror upon discovering his wife's deteriorated mental state. The protagonist's descent into madness and obsession with the wallpaper has alarmed him, and the realization that his treatment methods have worsened her condition leads to his collapse.
Detailed answer:

In Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper," the story's conclusion reveals John's fainting as a result of profound shock and horror upon witnessing the extent of his wife's deteriorated mental state. Throughout the narrative, John is portrayed as a physician who firmly believes in his traditional medical authority and insists on treating the protagonist's mental illness according to his own misguided understanding.

As the protagonist's mental health continues to deteriorate, her obsession with the yellow wallpaper in the room intensifies. She becomes convinced that there is a woman trapped behind the wallpaper, struggling to escape. Her growing preoccupation with the wallpaper's patterns and her erratic behavior deeply alarm John.

The climax of the story occurs when John discovers his wife, in a state of complete madness, creeping around the room and ripping off the wallpaper. This shocking sight shatters his perception of her condition and his treatment methods. His reaction reflects both his realization that his medical authority has failed and his inability to comprehend the depths of her mental distress.

John's subsequent fainting can be interpreted as a physical manifestation of his emotional turmoil and cognitive dissonance. He is unable to reconcile his understanding of his wife's illness with the shocking reality before him. This event serves as a powerful commentary on the societal attitudes towards women's mental health during the time the story was written.

The story's conclusion highlights the damaging consequences of disregarding women's voices and experiences in the name of authoritative medical knowledge. John's fainting signifies the collapse of his paternalistic and dismissive approach to his wife's condition. In a broader context, it serves as a critique of the medical and societal norms that often silenced women and minimized their agency in matters concerning their own bodies and minds.

In conclusion, John's fainting at the end of "The Yellow Wallpaper" is a dramatic reaction to the shock and horror of witnessing his wife's deteriorated mental state, exacerbated by his misguided treatment methods. This moment symbolizes the destructive consequences of ignoring women's perspectives and underscores the story's broader themes of patriarchal control and women's agency.

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