In "The Yellow Wallpaper," is the narrator the victim of a patriarchal (man-dominated) society?

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In a literal sense, the narrator is a victim of a patriarchal society. Her very real emotional problems are ignored or downplayed by her husband and her doctor, who prescribe isolation and rest instead of counseling. In their defense, this was common in those days, but there is little excuse for their complete inability to recognize that the isolation is making her even worse.

If a physician of high standing, and one's own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression -- a slight hysterical tendency -- what is one to do?
(Gilman, "The Yellow Wallpaper,"

Because of the societal stature of her husband, and the cultural stereotyping of a woman's mental health and role in the household, the narrator cannot complain of her treatment and be heard. The account in the story is a literal cry for help, written to anyone willing to read it. Her eventual mental breakdown represents the only rebellion against her captivity possible; she retreats into a fantasy where her husband is simply a physical obstacle to be "creeped" over.

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The Yellow Wallpaper

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