The Yellow Wallpaper

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The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a compelling and insightful short story that depicts the medical and professional treatment of women in the late 19th century. It also details the role of a woman in marriage during this time period. The narrator of the story slowly descends into insanity while her husband trivializes her condition and treats her as if she is mentally inferior. One powerful yet simple quote from the work is, “John laughs at me of course, but one expects that in marriage” (431). John is the protagonist’s husband, and he is also a physician that examines his wife and declares nothing is truly wrong with her because she is a woman. In addition, the author’s own experiences with this type of sexist treatment at the hands of a male doctor can be related to her writing. The gender of both the protagonist and Gilman result in their condition being taken less seriously by male doctors.

Although the main character’s husband seems to genuinely care about his wife’s health, he often dismisses her problem as petty because she is a woman. While describing how the narrator fears her mental condition is getting worse, she writes, “John is away all day, and even some nights when his cases are serious. I am glad my case is not serious! But these nervous troubles are dreadfully depressing. John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no reason to suffer, and that satisfies him” (433). One phrase that stands out in this selection is ‘I am glad my case is not serious!’ This is ironic because as the story progresses it becomes increasingly evident that her case is indeed serious. However, her role in the marriage is so concrete that even she dismisses her condition as a result of her husband’s diagnosis. Gilman also connects the character’s dilemma with her own experiences, by writing, “I sometimes fancy that in my condition if I had less opposition and more society and stimulus – but John says the very worst thing I can do is...
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