What are your views on the husband wife relationship in the ''Yellow Wall Paper''?  

Expert Answers
tmcquade eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The husband in "The Yellow Wallpaper" treats his wife condescendingly and like a child, leading her to be very unhappy and unfulfilled.  She is already experiencing post-partum despression, for which in modern times she would be able to receive treatment.  At the time, though, this was misunderstood, and she is simply prescribed "rest" as a means of getting well.  Since her husband is a doctor, he is expected to know best, and the wife submits to his judgment for she does not know what else to do.

The husband decides to rent a "colonial mansion" for her rest period, and when the wife questions the house, he laughs at her - "but one expects that in marriage," she says.  Obviously, she is used to not being treated with respect.  In fact, she says "he does not believe that (she is) sick," and she recognizes that, perhaps, this plays a role in why she has not gotten well.  He has even assured her friends and relatives "that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression-a slight hysterical tendency," so the wife is left without comfort or real compassion, and even perhaps a bit of "eye rolling" from those closest to her.

When they go to home in the countryside, the wife sees a room in which she would like to stay, where she can have a view of roses from the windows, but the husband determines that the old nursery, with bars on the window, is a better place for her.  When she complains about the "repellent" and "revolting" wallpaper - "one of those sprawling flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin" - he at first agrees to repaper the room, but then decides "that nothing was worse for a nervous patient than to give way to such fancies," so decides to keep the room the way it is.

John's total disregard for his wife's concerns, wishes, thoughts, dislikes, and desires show he is a very arrogant, insensitive, controlling man who thinks he always knows best.  His wife believes that "congenial work, with excitement and change, would do (her) good," but he does not agree, so she remains stuck in the room. She also believes writing will do her good, but he considers this unnecessary work, so she must hide her writing from him, as well as his sister.

Her husband shows a lack of emotional connection, as well, in that he doesn't recognize his wife is getting worse and worse as she spends time in the room.  Thus, he is in for a shock when he opens the door to find her creeping around the room on all fours - and she continues creeping right over him after he faints.  She doesn't let him hold her back any more - but she has lost her sense of sanity.


Read the study guide:
The Yellow Wallpaper

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question