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Creating Madness in The Yellow Wallpaper

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     As summer progresses in the story "The Yellow Wallpaper," John's treatment of the narrator as though she were a helpless docile child becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; she sheds the skin of her adult self and gives birth to her inner child via the wallpaper. From the moment she implies she is sick, his behavior becomes more and more parental and authoritarian. Under this guise he slowly disintegrates any resemblance of an adult wife he had. At the end he's victorious because he does beget a child. Simultaneously, he's a loser because the behavior of this childlike being mirrors his own attitude toward his wife: she's defiant and assertive and runs right over him. The tables have reversed.

In the beginning of the story, John laughs at her feelings about the queerness of the estate he has rented for the next three months. He acts as if her imagination has gone wild. Clearly he does not see her as his equal but as an undeveloped being who would entertain such nonsense. John "has no patience with faith" and "he scoffs openly at any talk of things not to be felt and seen" (Gilman 178). John does not have the patience to deal with a lesser being's outlook. It takes a great deal of patience for a parent to deal with the inner workings of a child's imaginative mind.

 

John and his brother-in-law, both physicians, refuse to believe she is really sick. Instead they assume she has "a slight hysterical tendency" (178). In their eyes depression is not an illness but a symptom of being a female. John has "forbidden her to 'work'" (179). Very often parents don't believe children when they say they are sick. Adults think that children blow things out of proportion in order to get their parents' attention. His prescription for...


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...his infantile creation "had to creep over him" (191) as she escapes from the womb of the wallpaper.

 

Works Cited

Gilman, Charlotte P. "The Yellow Wallpaper." An Introduction to Literature. Ed. Sylvan Barnett, Morton Berman, and William Burton 10th ed. New York: Harper Collins, 1993. 178-91.

Golden, Catharine. "The Writing of 'The Yellow Wallpaper': A Double Palimset." Studies in Short Fiction 17 (1989): 193-201.

Hume, Beverly A. "Gilman's Interminable Grotesque: The Narrator of 'The Yellow Wallpaper.'" Studies in Short Fiction 28 (1991): 477-83.

Johnson, Gregg. "Gilman's Gothic Allegory: Rape and Re-demption in 'The Yellow Wallpaper.'" Studies in Short Fiction 26 (1989): 521-30.

King, Jeanette, and Pam Morris. "On Not Reading Between The Lines: Models of Reading in 'The Yellow Wallpaper.'" Studies in Short Fiction 26 (1989): 23-32.

 


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