In "The Yellow Wallpaper," what is the relationship between the narrator and her husband?  

The relationship between the narrator and her husband in "The Yellow Wallpaper" is strained at best. He is acting more like a father or authority figure than a spouse, forcing her to stay in her room and rest when she feels as though some mental stimulation would actually help her. He infantilizes her, laughing at her and calling her pet names. She, meanwhile, grows worse as a result of his "treatment."

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I would argue that the relationship between the narrator and her husband is a patriarchal one in which the man makes the decisions and the woman adopts an accepting, subservient role. The first indication we get of the state of their relationship is when the narrator tells us, “Jack laughs at [her], of course, but one expects that in marriage.” This quote tells us that John sees himself as superior to his wife, who is something to be laughed at. We also quickly learn that he does not believe that his wife is sick.

It is a relationship in which John, who is a physician, plays down his wife’s symptoms and tells people that there is nothing really wrong with his wife other than a “temporary nervous depression.” In other words, he disrespects his wife by adopting a professional opinion that her illness and symptoms exist only in her head.

In this marriage, what John says goes, and little attention is paid to his wife’s desires. While she expresses a desire to stay in a room on the ground floor, he refuses, insisting that she take the room with the yellow wallpaper. He controls more and more of her life, denying her requests to see her friends and insisting that she can get better through sheer “will and self control.”

In a nutshell, the relationship between the narrator and her husband is one-sided. The narrator is expected to accept her husband’s word as truth and has no real say over her own circumstances.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 24, 2021
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"The Yellow Wallpaper" has an unreliable narrator, but she becomes progressively less reliable as she descends into depression and insanity. At the beginning of the story, the narrator seems clear and focused. The first thing she reveals about her relationship with her husband is that he laughs at her rather than taking her concerns seriously. She then adds, tellingly, that one expects to be laughed at in a marriage. This suggests that her husband has never treated her as an equal or valued her opinion.

The narrator also says that her husband, like her brother, is "a physician of high standing." It quickly becomes clear that the doctor-patient relationship has superseded that of husband and wife between them. John appears to be the type of doctor who does not really listen to the patient, but relies entirely on his own medical training for diagnosis and treatment. The mention of her brother also suggests that John's respect for his own profession means he seeks the opinion of another doctor if he requires reassurance that he is doing the right thing rather than consulting his wife about her feelings. The relations between the two, therefore, are those of an over-confident doctor who does not listen and a patient who feels that she does not have the standing to challenge his prescriptions, though she feels they are wrong.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 23, 2021
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The relationship between the narrator and her husband, John, in The Yellow Wallpaper is not exactly a healthy one by twenty-first-century standards. However, it is likely to have been seen as very appropriate to those living at the end of the nineteenth century. John is a doctor, and the narrator believes that his profession is one reason that she “do[es] not get well faster.” John, in fact, “does not believe” that she is ill at all because there are no physical signs or symptoms of illness. He thinks of her malady as a “temporary nervous depression” that she is very much in control of. John believes that it simply requires a measure of self-discipline on the narrator’s part, and then her “hysteria” will cease to be.

The narrator declares that “John is practical in the extreme” and she admits that she does get “unreasonably angry with John” at times, especially because he laughs at her and insists that, if she would only exercise “proper self-control,” then her condition would improve. The narrator says that John does not allow her to work at all or to have company, even though she feels that some mental and social stimulation would be good for her. However, she is not allowed to have a say in her treatment. In fact, she says that he “hardly lets [her] stir without special direction.” This level of confinement and control is not helping the narrator but, rather, is exacerbating her condition.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 22, 2021
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The narrator is a doctor who although probably filled with good intentions, comes off seeming domineering.  He treats his wife almost  like a little child. Right off the bat she mentions that "John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage."He is laughing at her silly ideas about the vacant house they've taken; she tries to blow it off by saying that's just what marriage is like.  She is trying to obey and play the role of a "good wife"; already though, you sense a strain.  She mentions that he doesn't believe she's sick, and forbids her to work.  Personally, she disagrees, but supposes he is right, so she acquiesces.  The tension makes her "unreasonably angry with John sometimes" which causes friction, so she takes "pains to control myself -- before him, at least". She says that "He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction" which indicates that he likes to feel in control of her, like he is taking care of her, but might go overboard and be a bit manipulative and controlling.

All of these things point to a forced relationship that is outwardly polite, but inwardly strained and unhappy.  In the end as the narrator slowly loses control of her mental state, we see that anger towards John come out as she locks him out of the room, refusing to let him in and help.  That inward strain finally takes its toll, and the results are disturbing and unfortunate.

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