What are three points that prove the theme of women being powerless?In my mind, the theme of the story is how the woman, the narrator, is powerless. What are three points which support this theme?

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cldbentley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is very evident the narrator of "The Yellow Wallpaper," the wife, feels completely powerless; when she does attempt to stand up for herself and make suggestions that she feels would better her condition, those ideas are dismissed or even laughed at.  This sad truth is evident in the narrator's conversations, thoughts, and activities.  Those around her do not give credence to her perspective or consider that she is more aware of her own condition than another person could be; when the narrator addresses the topic of her own well-being, her husband, John, who is a physician, acts as though there is no possibility that she could offer valuable insight.

Near the beginning of the story, the narrator describes her husband.  She states that he "laughs at {her}, of course, but one expects that in marriage."  In addition, she feels that he is practical, impatient, far from superstitious, and "he scoffs openly at any talk of things not to be felt and seen and put down in figures."  The narrator goes on to exclaim that her own husband, despite her assertations, fails to agree that she is ill.  Immediately after making this point, the narrator asks, "And what can one do?"  The asking of this question makes it very clear that the narrator feels there is, in fact, nothing she can do.

Later in the story, the narrator tells the reader that John laughs at her about the wallpaper.  It appears that John originally intended to do away with wallpaper, as well as other unsettling aspects of the room, but then decided it was not worth the money it would cost to do so.  Despite his wife's feelings about the subject, he persists in his own opinion that "the place is doing {her} good."  When she asks to change bedrooms to one that is downstairs, he calls her "a blessed little goose" and fails to take the idea seriously.  John's lack of sensitivity to his wife's suffering is reinforced when he jokes that "she shall be as sick as she pleases."

One of the most obvious places in which a theme of powerlessness is suggested is in the narrator's detailing of what takes place behind the pattern of the wallpaper.  She believes that the woman behind the pattern, who is a represention of herself, struggles to escape her confinement there.

Then in the very bright spots she keeps still, and in the very shady spots she just takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard. 

And she is all the time trying to climb through.  But nobody could climb through that pattern--it strangles so; I think that's why it has so many heads.

They get through, and then the pattern strangles them off and turns them upside-down, and makes their eyes white!

Clearly, the narrator wants to escape the sense of confinement and helplessness imposed up on her.


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The Yellow Wallpaper

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