Male dominance was once a problem that women had to deal with on a daily basis. Charlotte Gilman’s, ‘The Yellow Wallpaper” takes place in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s; during this time male domination over women was very prominent as the main characters husband takes it upon himself to “cure” his wife.
Traditional gender roles in the late 1800’s made male dominance a big issue. In “The Yellow Wallpaper” the narrator’s husband, John, is very disrespectful towards his wife because he does not believe she is ill and thinks she made it up in her mind. He plays mind games with her in an effort to convince her she is not sick. The narrator talks about how emotional neglectful John is, “John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no reason to suffer, and that satisfies him” (Gilman 382). John abuses his power over his wife by treating her as a child who cannot think for herself. Because of this she is stopped from getting help for her condition.
John has a lot of control over his wife, as her husband and a physician, causing him to keep her isolated mentally and physically. He tends to treat her as if she is not capable of rational thought. She is completely helpless while being held captive by her husband’s mind games. John takes advantage of her vulnerability by drugging her and having a strict plan to cure her “slight hysterical tendencies”. He is very dismissive and rude towards her anytime she tries to talk about her condition by saying “Bless her little heart, she shall be as sick as she pleases” (Gilman 386). The narrator’s condition continues to worsen because of his dismissiveness towards her.
As her husband, John keeps the narrator imprisoned not only by playing mind games about her condition, but also by locking her away. When her condition is brought up to him, John takes his wife to a rental house far in the country where the city cannot bother them. “Out of one window I can see a garden… out of another I get a lovely view of the bay and a little private wharf” (Gilman 383), the narrator describes their surroundings. At the house, John keeps his wife in a room with strange and interesting wallpaper in an attempt to “cure” her condition. She becomes intrigued by the wallpaper and all the spots where it is torn, but it doesn’t bother her. This constant confinement is enough to cause her mind to deteriorate and she eventually starts to go insane.
In Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” there are many examples of male domination from the narrator’s husband. He takes advantage of the gender roles in this era and physically and mentally imprisons his wife, all in an attempt to cure her condition he doesn’t even believe in.