This story is about an un-named woman and her husband, a physician. Her husband, John, along with her brother who is also a physician, diagnoses her with some form of bed-ridden illness. With this illness, she is not to leave her room in their temporary home. The woman recently has a baby, recognizes that she is sick and writes daily about being confined to the four walls of her room. During the story we notice that the woman almost never agrees with John, but does not stand up for herself and he always writes her off as if she is crazy. John has almost complete control of his wife’s body and belittles her on a day-to-day basis. All of her restrictions leave her with very little to do other than stare at “the yellow wallpaper.” In her writings, she projects her mental disintegrations on to the wallpaper and still finds the pattern on the wallpaper quite compelling.
This story was written when woman did not have the freedom and rights as they do now. The author wrote this story as a response to experiencing this situation of giving birth and having postpartum depression. This story is just a description of some of the ways the gender roles were portrayed and the way things worked in which the lives of women were molded and restricted by society. It is safe to say that during her prescribed rest, she goes crazy in her own thoughts and realizes that marriage and domestic life do not seem so satisfying to her. She believes that some individuality would help support her growths as a person, but it would not fit into the expectations of the woman role to serve the needs of the family.
Because the main character is the narrator, we get a close look at her feelings and emotions. I feel the reason the narrator was chosen is that it makes us feel more connected and brings us to have a lot of sympathy for the woman and all of her problems. The character’s experience of not having the appropriate amount of freedom is important because it could relate to what someone else is going through or precautions of what could happen to someone. This story is told in first person because we get the main character’s thoughts and it pulls us closer to her and her issues. We also get thoughts from other characters, based on what the narrator tells us.
The woman in the story constantly sees another woman in the wallpaper. As we go further in the story, she starts to relate more and more with this woman trapped behind bars in the wallpaper. One of the most prevalent messages of the story is that women are restricted and almost held captive in marriage and life when they are groomed to be the mold that others and society has them set out to be and this lessens their opportunity for personal growth. One of the major themes portrayed in this story is the role of women in early society and also, the cruelty of women inside and out of their domestic lives. John loved his wife and thought he was doing what was best for her, but it eventually just ruined her.
After reading and analyzing the story, I gathered that madness is likely to come in the end if a person is not given a chance to live, act and think on their own. I also thought how any woman could be happy in marriage if they were forced into this kind of world. Lastly, that people in the medical community mistreated and misunderstood women. I believe that Charlotte Perkins Gilman was conveying all of these messages to us in writing this story because of what she went through herself. This allows women to take precautions, notice when something similar happens and, as a man myself, it reminds me to respect and value all women, especially the ones closest to my heart, like the narrator was to John.