November 03, 2004

Gilman's "The Yellow Wall-Paper"

Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wall-Paper" is a story that also reflects on the author's life. It talks about how a woman is sick and her husband John and her brother advise her to stay in bed and not to anything until she gets better. She has to stare at a ugly yellow wallpaper that is in the room where she rests. I think due to her condition of depression, she is focusing on little things that made her condition even worse. She has focused most of her energy on the wall-paper, and she wanted to get rid of it; however John does not want to get rid of it because he tells her that's it's only temporary location and very soon they shall move out that apartment. I have noticed throughout the story, the woman wants to write very badly, but cannot due to her husband's objection. Either her husband cares for his wife very much and wants her to recover fully or he is very controlling due to his male instincts.

I would like to focus on three presentations, since the most discussion took place and some good points have been viewed.

In April's presentation, she views that "The women comes to realize that the real source of her depression is the way she is repressed by society." April focuses on how John is treating his wife. He may be a physician, but perhaps the woman's depression have been caused by her husband's behavior. Melissa Hagg commented that during today's society it would have been controlling his wife, but back then it is just called being considerate and caring. I believe that there are more than one way of looking at the text. No one is right or wrong, it's just how people view the information.

Dr. Jerz commented that the physician is caring in his professional manner and he just want to solve his wife's health problems; however all the woman might need is more affection and attention from John.

In Trisha's presentation, she talks about incidents of how men are controlling women throughout the story. Trisha also brought up a good point of how the woman wasn't able to move in the begining of the story and how John is capable of moving around, but then at the end of the story, John fainted and the woman was able to move around. This is a drastic change of how men overpowered women, and then it showed how women are coming up first at the end of the story.

In Mike's presentation, he seems to focus greatly how it is wrong to treat women the way John did. Mike thinks that John did not love his wife and didn't really share an intimate relationship. Eventhough they had a child together, it was basically "an act of service" for the woman to provide a child for John. It was great how Mike had in depth information of his feelings and interpretations of the text.

Dr. Jerz commented that the author might have delibrately left questions unanswered, so that the readers can have a debate.

In my personal opinion, I believe that the woman is suffering from some sort of depression, because the text talks about her nervousness and how she viewed things differently. Nothing to her was appealing. I would like to add that eventhough John is a physician and treats his wife like one of his patients, he still cares for her. I found it weird of how he kept referring the woman as a little girl. He is just thinking that doctors know best and wants his wife to get better fast. Perhaps, he wants her to get better fast, so that she can get back to housework, organizing parties, and other feminine things. But you have to remember that is story takes place in the late 1800's. This was common thinking of men. Also, the yellow wall paper is an important symbol in the story that contributes to the woman's illness. By having nothing to do in her room, not even to write, all she had was ugly yellow wall-paper to stare, so naturally it led her condition to be worse after awhile.

Here are two links that talk about Gilman's personal life.

Posted by NabilaUddin at November 3, 2004 05:05 PM

Nabila -

I think you hit the nail on the head in your last paragraph. I also responded to your question on blog.

Good thoughts, as usual, Miss Nabila :)

Posted by: Katie Aikins at November 3, 2004 08:17 PM

John represents what I think Gilman hopes to portray as the "everyman" of the period. However, in a sick twist, he also happens to be her husband.

The role of doctor heightens the condescension between the characters, something that makes the reader even more angry at John.

One of the only things that the reader can draw from his character is that he is the 'bad' guy, but somehow I feel sorry for him. His ignorance of what he has done to his wife is enough to make any reader cringe, perhaps even the contemporaries of Gilman's time.

Posted by: Amanda at November 15, 2004 11:44 PM


I know that everyone seems to be aganist John for what he is doing to his wife, but on the flip side, you could see that Jane has brought all the depression to herself. John might be partly cause of her illness, but not completely. He is trying to make her feel better and wants her to fully recover, eventhough it's to do women tasks, like cooking, cleaning, etc. I have to admit, his intentions are good, but just not expressed in the right way. I guess that's how men were back then, so I don't really feel negative towards John.

-Nabila :)

Posted by: NabilaUddin at November 16, 2004 11:15 AM

Did you at least feel a little displeased with him at the start of the story? I mean, the way he silenced her all the time?

I did feel bad for him too, when she was falling apart.

Posted by: Amanda at November 16, 2004 05:48 PM


Yes, I did feel that John was wrong for silencing Jane all the time. He didn't even let Jane speak her mind. It was like her opinions did not matter. Some parts of the story, John did not act like a good husband, and other times, John just treated her as a patient and took care of her.


Posted by: NabilaUddin at November 16, 2004 07:53 PM

And that is a point in its self. John is a multi-faceted character. No one ever looks at him, but is instead consumed by the portrayal of the narrator.

Posted by: Amanda at November 17, 2004 05:11 PM

I took this story as Jane being, in
fact, crazy. The way Gilman describes
the room in which the story takes sounds
more to me like a room in which insane
people have been placed (furniture nailed
to the floor, the rings on the wall, and
the scratches on the wallpaper itself) and
less like a nursery.

I also felt that John was never her
husband, and Janice her Sister-In-Law, but
in reality, Jane's doctor and her nurse.

Posted by: J. Reyes at October 28, 2006 12:16 AM
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