In the story "The Yellow Wallpaper", in what ways is John to blame for his wife's descent into madness?  

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The unnamed narrator's husband John is to blame for his wife's breakdown because he has repressed his wife, and he lacks any understanding of her feelings.

John has accepted the medical theories of Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell and deprived her of any human contact or contact with nature, he has subjugated her to his will and caused her to become even more depressed that she has been after the birth of their child, and he has stifled every artistic urge or emotional stimulation she has had that would be therapeutic and lift her spirits. 

That her husband does not give serious consideration to her feelings is indicated in the narrator's early remarks. For instance, she comments,

John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in a man. John is practical in the extreme. He has no patience with faith...and he scoffs openly at any talk of things not be felt and put down in figures....
You see he does not believe I am sick! And what can one do?

John thinks the narrator's condition is merely "temporary nervous depression--a slight hysterical tendency...." The narrator then asks, "What is one to do?" She is told not to "work," but she disagrees with this idea; she would like to walk in the garden, to write. Isolated in a room with a strict "prescription for each hour in the day," the narrator becomes repulsed by the wallpaper in her room and writes that it is

...one of those sprawling flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin.
It is dull enough to confuse the eye in following, pronounced enough constantly to irritate and provoke study....
The color is repellent, almost revolting; a smoldering unclean yellow....
There comes John, and I must put this away--he hates to have me write a word.

Clearly, then, the wife is further disturbed by this room in which she is isolated; furthermore, her oppressive husband exacerbates her condition by forcing her to remain there alone where she is severely depressed with no stimulation. With only the horrible affect of the hideous yellow wallpaper and its disturbing a-symmetrical pattern, the repressed woman stares at it and becomes obsessed with its hideousness. She eventually loses her sanity, feeling that she must release a woman behind this paper. 

 

 

 

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The Yellow Wallpaper

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