Violence in the Yellow Wallpaper

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Rachel Trudel
WMS 351
2/01/06

Violence in Gilman's,
"The Yellow Wallpaper"

The word "violence" has a very strong connotation in our language, and it is most often defined in terms of one individual deliberately causing harm to another. It is expected that if a person is labeled as "violent", he/she is physically abusing someone else. However, violence can also take on a more subtle and covert form that does not always involve physical abuse. In addition, it does not necessarily imply multiple people. These less obvious types of violence can be demonstrated in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's short story, "The Yellow Wallpaper". The narrator, restricted to her bedroom by her insisting physician husband, is subject to violence in the form of insanity because of his authoritative actions. The violence manifests in her mind because of the yellow wallpaper in the bedroom, and gets progressively worse throughout the story. The narrator's physician husband, John, believes he is helping his wife's depressed condition by confining her to a third floor bedroom with barred windows. In actuality, he creates a domestic prison where his wife has nothing but her own thoughts and a journal to pass away the time. John does not even want his wife to journal, as the narrator states, "…but John says the very worst thing I can do is to think about my condition, and I confess it always makes me feel bad" (p. 93). John is completely oblivious to the fact that his medical-opinioned "treatment" was in fact driving his wife insane. The relationship seen between John and his wife is undoubtedly unbalanced, with John as the prototypical patriarch, having all of the control and power over his wife's life. He infantilizes his wife, which is symbolized by her captivity in a room that was once a nursery. In the story, he refers to his wife as "a blessed little goose" and "little girl" and subsequently ignores her wishes to move to a different room. He treats her exactly...
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