Sept 26, 2012
Insanity Caused by a Haughty Husband
Many husbands of the early 20th century did not value their wives’ opinions, causing much frustration and strife on the women’s part. The “Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Gilman exhibits one of the more adverse effects that a male dominated society has on women. John, the narrator’s husband, treats his wife, the narrator, poorly, causing the already slightly unbalanced woman to succumb to insanity. The combination of the assertive role John is forced to take, the narrator’s vulnerability to being dominated, and the eventual perception of the husband as an enemy causes the narrator to inescapably descend into madness. John’s role as a husband and him being a professional physician causes him to see his own opinion as superior to his wife’s. This is demonstrated through the multiple times that John rebuffs his wife’s complaints on her environment. When she first expresses her dislike of the yellow wallpaper, the narrator writes that John “meant to repaper the room, but afterwards he said that [she] was letting it get the better of [her], and that nothing was worse for a nervous patient than to give way to such fancies”(108 Gilman). This eventually halts the complaints as the narrator acknowledges John’s authority. Unfortunately, this inequality causes both the narrator and her husband to be unaware of the true extent of the mental illness; John believes his wife to be only slightly ill, and his wife has no choice but to believe him. As John exclaims “Really dear you are better!” she replies “Better in body perhaps-”(113) but is then cut off by a reproachful look from John. Despite her obvious disagreement with using the rest cure, she proceeds with it due to the sole fact that her husband believes in its effectiveness. These crucial points of miscommunication are key in driving the narrator insane, as John cannot receive feedback on the progress of his wife’s “recovery” because he...