What are examples of "Madness" in "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The most conventional approach to this answer lies in finding the examples of madness that the woman experiences in her time in the room.  One example of this would be how what the woman feels is needed for her is constantly discarded by the men around her.  The madness in this results in the collision between her wants and the decisions of the husband and the doctors about what she needs. Madness is evident in the obsession about the wallpaper.  In representing the only source of focus for the woman, one can see elements of madness.   The "eyes" from the wallpaper that she perceives as staring back at her is reflective of such a condition.  Additionally, the figure that she sees "skulking behind the pattern of the wallpaper" is another example of the madness that is being fostered and facilitated within her.  There is a type of madness in which the narrator thinks that the wallpaper is a reflection of her own identity, in the way she sees the old woman within its patterns and in how she traces one line of it until its conclusion.  The focus on the wallpaper is the result of the only thing towards which she can channel her energies. Madness develops from such a condition in which she "becomes" the woman inside the wallpaper, crawling around the room to be free.

Another form of madness might be embodied by the emphasis in "rest therapy."  The doctors and husband who seem to believe in the certainty of this therapy and the negation of other approaches to help the woman represent the same singular madness that the woman suffers.  There is madness in the resistance to validate the woman's voice and even try to integrate some of the things she wants to do such as walks outside, reading, or writing into the notion of "rest therapy."  Madness can be seen in the singular and monolithic focus where there is little perspective evident.

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The Yellow Wallpaper

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