What is the narrator's problem in "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

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The narrative of "The Yellow Wallpaper" begins calmly and expresses only a few minor doubts about the course of treatment recommended by John, the narrator's husband. As the story progresses, the language becomes more vehement and the events less clear, until the narrator becomes entirely detached from the reality of her situation and her sense of self.

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The narrator in "The Yellow Wallpaper " is likely suffering from depression and likely from postpartum psychosis (at least in part) because of the young baby mentioned in the story. She finds that she cannot take care of her baby and has no desire to be near him, as...

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his presence makes her "nervous."

The specific illness is never mentioned, but the narrator does relate that her husband suggests: taking her to Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell, a doctor who became known for working with intellectual women suffering from similar symptoms and prescribing a "rest cure."

Although she longs to do more in the beginning of the story than simply rest inside her room, her husband feels that he knows what is best for her (and even what ails her) and insists that she rest. He calls her his "little girl" and refuses to listen to his wife's concerns about her health. She expresses feelings that she isn't getting better, that she isn't gaining weight, and that her mind still isn't clear. He replies by telling her that she simply can't see the truth of how much she's improved.

The narrator is surrounded by men who claim to know more about her condition than she does. Both her husband and her brother are physicians who insist that she has simply a "temporary" nervous depression. The specialist they consider sending her to is also a male. So the narrator suffers, very much alone, and even becomes afraid of her husband before her complete break with reality in the final scenes of the story.

There are two core issues with the narrator, as evidenced through the events of the story. First, she suffers from some mental health issues and isn't receiving the treatment she needs. Second, her own concerns about her health are dismissed and trivialized by others until she becomes completely trapped in her own mental world and suffers a psychotic break.

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The nameless narrator is suffering from postpartum depression, and her sanity rapidly diminishes as a result of her husband's prescribed "rest cure." The rest cure was developed by a leading neurologist at the time named Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell, who created a method to cure neurosis and depression by minimizing distressing stimulation. Dr. Mitchell's rest cure required patients to experience a solitary rest period lasting between six to eight weeks while they refrained from exercise, socializing, reading, writing, and sewing.

In the story, the narrator's husband, John, is depicted as a narrow-minded physician who significantly overlooks his wife's mental health and insists that the rest cure will remedy her postpartum depression. He forbids his wife from leaving the room, exercising, working, and writing. Tragically, the narrator gradually begins to lose touch with reality as her mental health significantly diminishes.

Despite her numerous pleas to leave her room and engage in physical activities, John prohibits her from doing so. The narrator begins to hallucinate by seeing a woman trapped inside the yellow wallpaper and eventually embodies the persona of the trapped woman. By the end of the story, the narrator has begun to crawl on all fours and bite at the legs of the bed, which stuns her husband when he finally opens the door to her room.

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The nameless narrator and protagonist in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's short story "The Yellow Wallpaper" is a woman who has recently given birth to a first child and is suffering what seems to be an intense bout of post-partum depression.

The main problem of the narrator, however, is not the condition alone. It is the manner in which it is being treated. Instead of receiving moral and emotional support, our main character is treated as if her feebleness comes as a result of her gender and from an illness. She is taken to a rented home far away and is left in basic isolation inside a room. She is deprived of her therapeutic needs, such as reading and writing. She is even deprived of her child, who is taken to another room. Her husband and her doctor both agree that the narrator is simply going through some phase and they disregard completely the real needs of this poor woman.

It is both ignorance and arrogance what lead to this debacle. The arrogance of men treating women as secondary citizens leads to their overall ignorance as to what women need. The narrator, eventually, loses her mind. The yellow wallpaper with which the room was covered begins to give ideas to her already disturbed mind. In it, she sees herself as a woman trapped within the yellow wallpaper.

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How does the narrative of "The Yellow Wallpaper" mimic the narrator's mental state?

"The Yellow Wallpaper" begins in a calm and measured fashion, discussing why the narrator and her husband took the house for the summer. There is no suggestion of mental disorder in the narrative, and no sense of discord either, until the narrator begins to talk about her husband's lack of understanding. She is obviously very reluctant to criticize him, and does so at first in the most tentative terms.

John is a physician, and perhaps (I would not say it to a living soul, of course, but this is dead paper and a great relief to my mind) perhaps that is one reason I do not get well faster.

As the story progresses, the narration becomes less clear. The narrator's dislike of the room in which she is imprisoned is quite violent, and she expresses it vehemently, describing the color of the wallpaper as "repellant, almost revolting." Soon, she begins to attribute agency and malice to the wallpaper, and her language becomes correspondingly exaggerated. She sees the pattern lolling "like a broken neck," while "bulbous eyes" stare at her.

By the end of the story, the narrator is so thoroughly confused that she says it would be "admirable exercise" to jump out of the window. Her loss of any sense of self is reflected in failure to distinguish between the creeping figure and herself or to identify the man on the floor as her husband. The disordered narrative shows the reader,s without having to tell them, how the narrator has become detached from reality.

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How does the narrator change throughout the story "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

Over the course of "The Yellow Wallpaper," the narrator changes from a normal, rational woman who is slightly perturbed by the fussy overprotectiveness of her husband to someone who has quite clearly been driven insane.

The narrator begins by describing the ideas of her husband and brother, both physicians. She says that she disagrees with these ideas, but she is helpless to resist the power of the two men. It is this lack of agency that begins her descent into madness. As the story progresses, her language becomes more vehement, particularly when she describes the room where she is confined and its "repellant, almost revolting" yellow wallpaper.

Two weeks after the narrator's first description of the wallpaper, she talks about it as though it had a personality, and a malignant one which is doing all it can to antagonize her. Later, she comes to believer that this is literally true and that there is a woman creeping about behind the wallpaper. By the end of the story, she has become the creeping woman herself, finally giving substance to her horrible delusions.

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Analyze the character development of the narrator in "The Yellow Wallpaper."

Typically we think of character development in terms of a growth in some area, but that isn't the case for the narrator in "The Yellow Wallpaper." Instead, the narrator in this short story experiences a steady decline in mental faculties as the plot progresses.

When the story begins, the narrator, who likely suffers from some form of postpartum depression, understands that she is sick and even tries to convey what she believes will cure her. She longs for nature, for the company of other people, and for the ability to write. Yet she is initially frustrated that her husband dismisses her: "You see he does not believe I am sick!"

As the plot continues, the narrator's frustrations at being kept in a form of solitary confinement grow. She begins to associate her growing feelings of resentment with the physical features of her room. The room, a former nursery, as been ravaged by previous children. The wallpaper is torn in spots. The floor is "scratched and gouged and splintered, the plaster itself is dug out here and there."

Kept separate from nearly everyone, the narrator begins to focus her angst first on the pattern of the wallpaper, which she describes as "irritating." And then, she notices something else:

But in the places where it isn't faded and where the sun is just soI can see a strange, provoking, formless sort of figure, that seems to skulk about behind that silly and conspicuous front design.

This "figure" evolves into a woman whom the narrator believes is trapped behind the pattern of the wallpaper. As time passes, the narrator "watches" this woman more and more until the woman "trapped" in the wallpaper becomes the singular focus of the narrator's concerns. She detaches from her husband and eventually begins to feel that she is "getting angry enough to do something desperate." At this point, she also notes that she doesn't "like to look out of the windows eventhere are so many of those creeping women, and they creep so fast." Clearly this is a departure from her initial character that longed for the peace outside her windows. The narrator then wonders,

I wonder if they all come out of that wall-paper as I did?

The narrator now sees herself as the woman who is trapped behind the patterns of the wallpaper, trapped in a life she doesn't control and cannot escape, and wonder if all women feel this same sense of repression. This sense of powerlessness drives her into further madness until she attempts to take control of her own life by pulling off the wallpaper, which symbolizes her entrapment, and tells her husband that now he "can't put [her] back."

In the end, the narrator frees herself of the physical and marital constraints imposed upon her by a society which doesn't understand her needs.

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How would you characterize the narrator in the story "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

The narrator, who is never directly named, is a wife, a new mother, and is under the care of several people--her doctor (also her husband), sister, and others in the house.  She has been isolated from friends in the country, and isolated from any mental stimulation in order to recover from her post-partum depression (of course, when the story was written, there was no name for this condition).   She does secretly keep a journal...one wonders how differently the story would have ended had she been allowed to get out of the yellow room and engage in conversations, writing, reading, and other intellectual pursuits.  She is bored and restless, and entertains herself with the idea of a prisoner behind the wallpaper, who turns out to be herself as well as a representation of other women in her same situation.  This story is screaming of the position of women in the 19th and early 20th centuries--think "Leave it to Beaver" and "Happy Days" where women stayed at home all day, cleaned house in dresses, heels, and pearls and they made sure that dinner was ready and that they looked great when their tired husbands who worked all day came home.  Women were not considered to be intelligent creatures, nor were they listened to by their doctors when they gave symptoms for which there were no physical evidence.  Post partum depression and other depressions were only part of the reason they considered women to be overly emotional beings.

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How would one describe the character of John in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman?

In Charlotte Perkins Gilman's “The Yellow Wallpaper,” John, the narrator's husband, can be best characterized as controlling and condescending. Let's see how this works.

John is a physician, and he has taken his wife on a trip to stay at an old house in the country for a time. The narrator is suffering from a nervous condition, and John has prescribe the rest cure. He is adamant that his wife is not to work at her writing or engage in stimulating conversation or even care for her baby. She must rest and take air and eat good food and do exactly as he says. John thinks that he knows what is best for his wife, and she will just have to obey. She can hardly “stir without special direction.” The narrator disagrees with John. She thinks that if she has more society and stimulation, and especially her work, that she will get better faster.

John even chooses the room in which the couple will sleep even though the narrator would much prefer another one. The narrator dislikes the chosen room with its horrible wallpaper, but when she expresses her feelings to her husband he merely calls her “a blessed little goose.” John is almost always condescending to his wife. He seems to think that expressions like “little girl” are terms of endearment, but really, they are denials of the maturity and self-determination of his wife.

To be fair, John does not mean to drive his wife into madness by his control and condescension, but that is what happens. By thinking he knows best and refusing to listen to his wife, he helps send her from nervousness into psychosis.

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How would you characterize the husband in "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

The husband, John, is the epitome of the nineteenth century male attitude that women were fragile beings whose place in life was that of the domestic arena.  He is the one who prescribes the “rest cure” for his wife, which is essentially his way of physically and emotionally imprisoning his wife, who is most likely suffering from post – partum depression.  He sees his wife as little more than a child, calling her a “little girl” and his “blessed little goose.”  He cannot (and does not want to) comprehend that his wife could have a complex psychological condition because women, in John’s mind, are not complex creatures at all.

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