How does the point of view of the characters in The Yellow Wallpaper influence the reader?
Charlotte Perkins Gillman's story "The Yellow Wallpaper" was published in 1892 as an indictment of the medical treatment prescribed to women suffering from the condition that was know at the time as "neurasthenia," or "nervous prostration"; a condition that is now termed post-partum depression; a form of depression which results from the hormonal changes that new mothers suffer. The cure proscribed in the late 1900s was complete bed rest with no stimulation, a cure initiated by Dr. Weir Mitchell. This story of Gillman is autobiographical and intended to expose the inherent cruelties and errors of this approach to this female depression. For, this treatment of depressive women strips them of any say in their cure; moreover it deprives them of any sensory stimulation or human company, the most basic of human needs.
Gillman's narrator is the unnamed, repressed wife of John, who himself is a physician. He has called upon Dr. Mitchell to prescribe a cure for his "nervous" wife after the birth of their baby. At first, the narrator disagrees with the ideas of her husband and Dr. Mitchell, but expresses her helplessness against these men, "But what is one to do?" Instinctively, she knows what will help her overcome her "blues," but because of her repressed social position, she acquiesces to her domineering husband's judgment:
I sometimes fancy that in my condition if I had less opposition and more society and stimulus--but John says the very worst thing I can do is think about my condition, and I confess it always makes me feel bad.
Further, from his words to her it becomes apparent that the husband places more and more stress upon the depressed woman. For instance, whenever she says something, he contradicts her and mitigates the significance of her feelings and observations:
...there is something strange about the house--I can feel it.
I even said so to John one moonlight evening, but he said what I felt was a draught, and shut the window.
I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes. I'm sure I never used to be so sensitive, I think it is due to this nervous condition.
But John says if I feel so I shall...
(The entire section contains 737 words.)
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In The Yellow Wallpaper, the story is told by an unnamed narrator in first person. She slowly sinks into madness, causing us to have an idea of how crazy she has become, and allows us to sympathize with her. By using her point of view, it also gives a sense and mood of strangeness and mystery in the story and plot, by not directly letting us know of the truth.