Who sees? Who is blind? Why? Compare one character’s insight to another character’s lack of understanding, either in the same text or through a comparative reading. What thematic purpose is served by the author presenting some characters as either “blind” to certain knowledge, or as gaining some sort of insight?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The narrator and her husband make an excellent duo for this question.

The narrator likely suffers from postpartum depression, as evidenced by the baby who is also in the household and by her symptoms; the narrator has great intuition about what she needs. She realizes that being near her baby makes her increasingly "nervous." She looks out the (barred) windows of her room and enjoys the natural beauty there; she imagines the conversations of people who might pass by, longing for socialization herself. The narrator realizes that being confined in a former nursery with her current mental delicacies toward her own child leave her feeling disjointed, and she cannot stand the confinement. She is in tune with the way her body needs healing: nature, social interactions, and freedom. She sees the truth of how harmful it is to be confined and kept quiet for an extended period of time.

Her husband believes himself to fully see his wife's situation, yet his efforts to help her only make the symptoms worse. He dismisses his wife's requests for a bedroom with roses on the windows. He tells her that if she feels "sensitive," she simply lacks proper "self-control." He "hardly lets [her] stir without special direction." When his wife laments about the horrid confinement with the wallpaper that she cannot escape, he calls her his "blessed little goose" and dismisses her once again. He cannot see the truth of the situation—that he does not know what is best for his wife and that it is physically and psychologically harming her with each passing day.

Thematically, the husband's "blindness" represents the historical context in which the story was written. Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell, who is referenced in the story, was a doctor in the late 1800s who treated women in much the same way that the narrator's physician husband believes in treating her. Dr. Weir Mitchell forbade women from talking, writing, or reading, a therapy referred to as the "rest cure." Thus, women were basically in solitary confinement, imprisoned in their own homes and with no outlet for creative expression or other means of processing their various illnesses. The husband represents a male perspective that he is more knowledgeable of his wife's health than she could possibly be; thus, he is blind to the arrogance inherent in such a position. The narrator sees clearly the path to healing but is dismissed, because she exists in a patriarchal society which doesn't value her insights—or even her knowledge of her own body.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial