What do the narrator’s husband and brother think is wrong with her?

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Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” is told in the first-person point of view from an unnamed narrator, a young woman suffering from an illness that no one in her life believes. The reader follows her mental breakdown throughout the course of the story. Our understanding of the events of the text is limited to her perspective. We know that her husband, John, is also her doctor (“a physician of high standing”) and that he and her brother do not seem to be too concerned about her health problems. John has prescribed a rest cure for her, keeping her from doing anything except resting until she is cured of her depression.

In her description of how John treats her, it’s clear that he treats her like a patient and not as his wife. Since he doesn’t have any visible symptoms to break up her claims, he doesn’t think that her illness real. He uses pet names for her, referring to her as a child or a “blessed little goose.” None of these nicknames demonstrate that he has any empathy for the character; instead, it further annoys our narrator and exacerbates her illness. He turns down any of her requests, like switching rooms or being able to go outside, because he doesn’t want to give in to her delusions.

The narrator doesn’t fight her husband’s decisions, because she knows that because of his standing in the medical community, as well as the respect her brother has, no one will listen to her, so she gives in, asking herself, "What can one do?"

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