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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 with nauseating



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