Mary Condela Reading Blog #7- “The Yellow Wall-paper”
Rest Cure Excites Insanity
The woman narrator in “The Yellow Wall-paper” has a penchant for excitability and wonder, and enjoys expressing her traits through writing. At some point she began to feel as something was wrong which brought on a vague feeling of sickness. It is shown to be caused by her dissatisfaction with her role as a house-wife. This role is expected of her by her husband, but she confronts this “ideal” by insisting on writing.
She reveals her desire for being more than just a domestic wife when she protests “Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good” (Gilman 792). However, her husband who denies the validity of her sickness, and yet still treats her as a complete dependent, has “absolutely forbidden” her to work or write or decide what to do with her own time, or to have any thought of her own. She is treated as if she is weak and unreasonable as in the response evoked when she gets “unreasonably angry with John sometimes” (Gilman 793). This action is unfeminine and is reprimanded by her husband who calls for “proper self-control” (Gilman 793). This description of women as fickle, impressionable, and lacking restraint is continued throughout the story. The more reasonable man condemns his wife’s emotions as misguided and ridiculous “fancies.” She internalizes these criticisms while still rejecting her dull role as a proper woman as when she exclaims “Nobody would believe what an effort it is to do what little I am able—to dress and entertain, and order things” (Gilman 794). This aggravation at performing these trivial things, and her lack of passion to do so; contrasts with her persistence to write, even while having to sneak and keep it on the low. However, even though her writing is cathartic (and full of pretty imagery of the environment, and unique and captivating adjectives to portray the disturbing room) she believes that these proper and feminine activities are all that she is able to do, since her husband disallows her from getting input on her writing. With no one to encourage her she agrees with her husband that she is incorrigible, as shown before when she said she “unreasonably” expresses her frustration and called-for indignance when it is quite appropriate; as her husband ignores everything she says, thinking that he is infallible, as he IS a doctor.
This patriarchal view of a woman being only a malleable decoration, supposed to be hollow of any reason and completely dependent on man, places her as an object. When the wife internalizes this governing idea, without any society to validate her worth, she begins to be in conversation with the inanimate. She describes the wall as having feeling and motive throughout the story and the first time she encounters this paper she illustrates the look of it as “One of those sprawling flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin. It is dull enough to confuse… pronounced enough to constantly irritate and provoke study” (Gilman 793). This theme of applying animate qualities to an inanimate object continues with phrases such as “The paper looks to me as if it knew,” and traits of the wall paper as “impertinence,” “silly,” “bloated,” “hideous,” “unreliable,” and “infuriating” (Gilman 795-798). Finally, she recognizes a form of a woman trapped in the wallpaper. The contentious lines are too laden with hypocrisy (in their unnavigitable directions) for the woman to permanently escape from being a shadow in a wall. The narrator relates to the woman and “got up and ran to help her” (Gilman 802). This solidarity between the figure and the narrator shows their similar feelings as being trapped as an object of attention, rather than being able to be a person.
The narrator liberates herself when she tears off all the wallpaper to liberate the woman. She now has become the woman from the wall paper as this is how she felt; trapped behind bars, forced to creep slyly around in order to do anything she desires to do. She is released from the wall paper and deliberately plans to “astonish him,” meaning her husband (Gilman 802). This is accomplished and works so well that the sight causes him to faint. Gilman inverts the codes of the feminine and masculine when she writes that the husband fainted which is normally attributed to women as a sign of their frailty. The power shifts when the narrator continues to crawl over her sprawled husband. However, though the narrator perceives her excavation as freedom; she is still stuck in that room, just going in circles. Yet she does get to clamber above her husband through eternity to experience her superiority.