One irony of Charlotte Perkins's disturbing story is the fact that if the narrator were empowered to choose her means of recovery, then she probably would have cured herself, rather than having fallen victim to terrible repression and later to what one critic calls "the seduction of insanity." Her nervous condition worsens because neither the husband, who is a physician nor the attending doctor understands her sensitive and artistic nature. Thus, the two physicians are a negative, rather than a positive influence on her.
When the narrator, who suffers from post-partum depression, is prescribed fresh air and exercise and is forbidden to "work" until she is well again, the narrator feels differently about her cure. She is convinced that "congenial work, with excitement and change," would benefit her more. As an outlet from her depression, she tries writing; however, because she has to do this activity secretly not to suffer "heavy opposition," she becomes overwrought. She thinks,
I sometimes fancy that ...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....
Ironically, it would be good for her to socialize and to think about her condition and what she can do for herself. If she were given agency to work around the house or to go out onto the piazza with "roses all over," the narrator would be distracted from her depression. Instead, she is confined to a room she does not like, preferring to have stayed in one that is on the first level. Then, when this sensitive woman tells her husband that there is something strange about the house, he dismisses her feelings, saying that she has merely felt a draft.
It becomes apparent that the narrator is an intuitive woman of an artistic nature whose husband has no understanding of her. Moreover, he imposes his will upon her until her repression in the "atrocious nursery," where she is made to stay, worsens. For she hates the "lurid orange" in some parts of the room and the "sickly sulfur tint" in others. When she asks her husband to repaper the room, he refuses, telling her that there is nothing worse than "letting it get the better of [her]." He also tells his wife that her imaginative power and habit of story-making should be checked by her will because they are sure to lead to "all manner of excited fancies."
As she is left alone in this room while her husband is away on medical calls, sometimes even in the evening, the narrator has nothing to do. She is also prevented from caring for her baby because she becomes "nervous" with her child. While she feels imprisoned in this room with "inharmonious furniture" and torn and irregular, ugly wallpaper, her creative imagination that has not been afforded an outlet becomes perverted like that of a terrorized child. The frightened woman begins to imagine a "strange, provoking, formless sort of figure" behind that "silly and conspicuous...
front design" of the wallpaper. Eventually, her request to be taken away from this "hideous woman," who is herself in the woman's mind, is denied by her husband. It is then that the narrator begins to succumb to "the seduction of insanity." Ironically, rather than bringing about the cure for this woman's depression, both the physician and the husband extend it, driving her to insanity.