Professor Kathryn Warren
March 6, 2011
“The Yellow Wallpaper”
In the story of “The Yellow Wallpaper”, the protagonist is the narrator, and suffers from mental illness that she describes as nervousness. Her husband, however, refuses to admit that she is ill, but has taken her to a summer rental home for a treatment of rest. John is a physician and prescribes one hour of rest per day, and has restricted her from visitors, traveling, or participating in any activity that he considers to be stressful, including the daily house chores, caring for the baby, or writing, which she sees to be her stress outlet. The societal expectations of the women of the 19th century were that they submissive, pious, pure, and domestic. “It does weigh on me so not to do my duty in any way!” (Gilman). This is a reflection of the inner conflict the protagonist feels due to society’s expectations of her, and the feelings of guilt she has for not doing her part of the housework and caring for the children. “Personally I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good” (Gilman). It is evident that the narrator doesn’t agree with her husband’s prescribed therapy. However, she is submissive to the restrictions of her therapy with the exception that she secretly begins to write. The consequence of the struggle between her feelings of oppression, and her mental illness being misunderstood and mistreated, is that the narrator experiences a psychotic episode. The room that she once found so repulsive, she finds refuge in now, and refuses to leave. Her ultimate freedom from the restraints of her life is her insanity. The wallpaper in “The Yellow Wallpaper” symbolizes the narrator’s feelings of seclusion and repression. John, her husband decides that their room will be what used to be a nursery upstairs that has yellow wallpaper. Secluded from the outside world, the protagonist obsesses over the yellow wallpaper in her room that...
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