The Yellow Wallpaper - English - Essay

1389 words - 6 pages

ENG4U

Inside Insanity

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a prominent female writer and social reformer, once
said, "to swallow and follow, whether old doctrine or new propaganda, is a weakness still
dominating the human mind." In her literary work the Yellow Wallpaper, Gilman
recounts the semi-autobiographical story of a woman suffering from mental illness in an
uninformed and patriarchal society. The woman is prescribed the "resting cure" by her
rational and patronizing husband, John, and though she strongly opposes this method of
treatment, she acquiesces to her husband's orders. The woman soon notices the
complications of the treatment when she begins to experience vivid hallucinations and
obsessive tendencies in regard to the yellow wallpaper in her room. All events that
unfold are told through the woman's personal journal entries and are filtered through her
deteriorating mental state. The use of first-person narration is not only compelling for the
reader but is essential in portraying John's role in the narrator's condition, depicting her
isolation, and intensifying her descent into insanity.
The use of first-person narration allows the reader to directly discern John's role
in the narrator's mental breakdown. The reader is provided with a glimpse into the
narrator's innermost thoughts and feelings, where John is characterized by his
supercilious attitude and his inadvertence of his wife's opinions. John, being both
2
 
 
A husband and physician in a male-dominated society presume that his wife's health is in
his control and often dismisses what she feels to be best for her recovery. The narrator
attempts to convey her thoughts regarding her recovery; however, each time, her thought
process is interrupted when she recalls her husband's suggestions. This technique, only
feasible with first-person narration, accentuates the narrator's compliant and powerless
position in relation to her authoritative husband. For example, the narrator reflects on her
condition and concludes "less opposition and more society and stimulus" would be
beneficial, but immediately recalls, "John [saying] the very worst thing [she] can do is to
think about [her] condition" (Gilman). The narrator's abrupt and wavering train of thought
illustrates the internal conflict she faces, a result of her husband's all-encompassing
authority opposing her personal feelings and beliefs. The discrepancy between what she
believes and what her husband demands of her is essentially what renders her unstable,
resulting in her mental break. In addition to neglecting his wife's beliefs, John treats his
wife like a child, belittling her illness and undermining her abilities. The narrator
recounted the time when she attempted to have "a real earnest reasonable talk with [John]."
about needing more social stimulus, but "John gathered [her] up in his arms and just
carried [her] upstairs" (Gilman). In this case, the use of first-person narration allows ...

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