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The Yellow Wallpaper

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In "The Yellow Wallpaper", by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, there is a

dominant/submissive relationship that exists between an oppressive husband and

his submissive wife. This oppressive husband leads his wife from a state of

depression to a state of insanity and finally, to a state of isolation. Had the

husband not been so oppressive upon his wife, he could have realized her problem

and resolved it without tearing himself away from her. The woman does not

become insane because of the wallpaper alone; rather, it is the strict

guidelines her husband sets for her that prompt her eventual insanity and

isolation.

As the story begins, the woman -- whose name we never learn

-- tells of her depression and how it is dismissed by her husband and brother.

"You see, he does not believe I am sick! And what can one do? If a physician

of high standing, and one's own husband, assures friends and relatives that

there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression --

a slight hysterical tendency -- what is one to do?" (Gilman 658). These two

men, both doctors, are apparently unable to admit that there might be more to

her condition than just stress and a slight nervous condition. Even when a

summer in the country and weeks of bed-rest don't help, her husband refuses to

accept that she may have a real problem.

Throughout the story there are examples of the

dominant/submissive relationship. She is virtually imprisoned in her bedroom,

supposedly to allow her to rest and recover her health. Her husband does not

allow her to work, "So I . . . am absolutely forbidden to "work" until I am well

again" (Gilman 658). She depicts his control over her actions when she states,

"There comes John, and I must put this away -- he hates to have me write a

word"(Gilman 659).

She has no say in the location or decor of the room she is

virtually imprisoned in: "I don't like our room a bit. I wanted . . . But John

would not hear of it" (Gilman 659). He also doesn't allow her to have visitors:

"It is so discouraging not to have any advice and companionship about my work .

. . but he says he would as soon put fireworks in my pillow-case as to let me

have those stimulating people about now." (Gilman 660).

Probably in large part because of her oppression, her health

continues to decline. "I don't feel as if it was worthwhile to turn my hand

over for anything.." (Gilman 661). Her husband is apparently oblivious to her

declining condition, since he never admits she has a real problem until the end

of the story, at which time he faints. He does talk of

taking her to an expert when she states "John says if I don't pick up faster he

shall send me to Weir Mitchell in the fall" (Gilman 660), which she took that as

a threat since Mitchell was even more domineering than her husband and brother.

Not only does her husband fail to get her help, but by virtually

keeping her a prisoner in a room

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