Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
The narrator, unnamed, who also is the protagonist. She is an imaginative, creative woman living in a society that views women who exhibit artistic and intellectual potential as anomalies, misfits, or, as in this story, ill. The narrator, having recently borne a child, apparently suffers from an ailment now identified as postpartum depression. Her husband, John, who is a doctor, misidentifies her condition and prescribes a “rest cure” made popular by the well-respected physician Weir Mitchell. The rest cure assumes that intellectual stimulation damages a woman physically and psychologically, so John requires the narrator to stop all writing, all reading, and essentially, all higher-level thinking. The narrator, however, cannot deny her creative imagination, so she writes in secret the document that is the novella, through which readers can trace the harmful psychological effects of the rest cure. She develops a fascination with the yellow wallpaper in their room. Her mental illness becomes more pronounced, until, finally, she openly displays madness.
John, the narrator’s husband, a physician. He differs from his imaginative wife in that he believes only in what he can see and touch. In his physical evaluation of his wife, he finds nothing wrong, so he believes she creates her own illness, that she is a hypochondriac. He enforces restrictions on his wife’s conduct in an attempt to end her...
(The entire section is 498 words.)
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