“The Yellow Wallpaper” is a literary story written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The story is an example of how easily a woman dealing with depression can spiral into madness. What could have caused this? What is the purpose of this story? The struggles of the narrator’s tension with John and the wallpaper presented in the story represent symbolism of how marriage is a prison to a woman if the marriage is controlled by a dominating husband.
The frustrations of John, the husband, are explained in the beginning of the story. The narrator mentions John and his personality quite a bit. The narrator also explains how she feels distanced by John. “You see, he does not believe I’m sick! And what can one do?” (Gilman 307). The quote gives evidence that John’s neglecting bothers her, but in reality, there’s nothing she can do to fix it. She understands that his word is law. One thing that bothers the narrator is the fact that she feels she needs to hide her creativity in order to play the role of the obedient wife. She says: “There comes John, and I must put this away, – he hates to have me write a word.” (Gilman 309). When she expresses her creativity, she feels she is breaking both the trust of John and the expectations of a wife. John doesn’t believe that she should be doing any kind of work during treatment, as the narrator mentioned that “he hates…”, implying that he’s dealt with this in an earlier event, thereby causing a rift in the marriage and raising tension. There are moments in which she will try to express her thoughts, but he would dismiss them if they were to interfere with his ideals of her well-being. “…he sat up straight and looked at me with such a stern, reproachful look that I could not say another word” (Gilman 314). More evidence that John doesn’t trust the narrator’s mental state. This makes her feel more ill, as her husband is becoming more controlling. This causes tension within the marriage and causes more harm to the narrator’s mental health.
The wallpaper gives the story a colder feeling. The narrator hates it at first, but as the story progresses, she begins to hate it less and less. When it came to the sub-pattern of the wallpaper, she states that “But in the places where it isn’t faded and where the sun is just so I can see a strange, provoking, formless that sort of figure, that seems to skulk about behind that silly and conspicuous front design” (Gilman 311). This gives indication that the wallpaper doesn’t bother the narrator all that much. The way she describes the sub-pattern is a little cold. What can she see? This gives more insight into how stable her mind is. As the days passed, she looked further into the wallpaper. She saw something in it. She saw herself. Back to the connection to mental health, I saw that the more conflicted she got with her mental issues, the more she would reflect on herself. Think of the wallpaper as a dirty mirror. The narrator would look into at first and she hates what she sees. As the dirt settles out (narrator’s mental health), she begins to see more of herself every time. The cleaning of this “mirror” gave her a better visual of her life and marriage. It gives the narrator a visualization of how crumbled her marriage is. She witnesses how her marriage makes her feel trapped, like a prisoner. The narrator feels the pain of being a prisoner in marriage, and this causes her to increase difficulties with her mind. In the end, the narrator breaks the figurative mirror (ripping the wallpaper) in order to free herself from this prison. When reading the story, it came to thought that the narrator’s reflection on themselves was causing them to succumb to more damage to her mindset. The more the narrator was exposing herself to the reality of her life, the more inner conflict with her psyche. This battle between heart and mind is what drives her mad in the end.