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The Yellow Wallpaper

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This paper intends to look into the main character’s descent toward madness. It aims to discuss how she turned crazy and gotten worse instead of recovering from anxiety. In addition, the factors that drove her to that state will also be briefly discussed. Finally, it will also tackle the irony of her freedom at the end of the story.

Summary of the Story

“The Yellow Wallpaper” is about a woman who was brought by her husband to a “colonial mansion” one summer to help her recover from her sickness (Gwynn, 2007, pp. 77 – 91). During her first day there though, she saw a wallpaper and she felt weird about it (Gwynn, 2007, pp. 77 – 91). Her husband, John however, does not believe her claim (Gwynn, 2007, pp. 77 – 91). He also believes that his wife is not really sick but is only suffering from a momentary nervous or anxiety condition (Gwynn, 2007, pp. 77 – 91). Thus, John gives her medication and orders her to rest completely in spite of her request that she be allowed to work (Gwynn, 2007, pp. 77 – 91). She really believes that working will play a large role in her speedy recovery and so she writes sometimes but eventually she got tired of it because she wants to write freely and not hiding it from her husband (Gwynn, 2007, pp. 77 – 91). She developed an obsession for that yellow wallpaper in that particular room where she stayed (Gwynn, 2007, pp. 77 – 91). The yellow paper and other reasons played a large role in the fact that her condition worsened (Gwynn, 2007, pp. 77 – 91).

The Main Character’s Descent toward Madness (How She Turned Crazy and Gotten Worse Instead of Recovering from Anxiety)

There are several reasons why she turned crazy and gotten worse (Gwynn, 2007, pp. 77 – 91). Some of these are the following:

First of all, John does not believe she is sick (Gwynn, 2007, p. 77). If she is believed not to be sick then how will she be fully healed (Gwynn, 2007, p. 77)? Despite her claims, he still declares that what she’s going through is only temporary (Gwynn, 2007, p. 77). John is too stubborn to acknowledge and recognize what she feels which irritates her and adds to the anxiety that she is going through (Gwynn, 2007, p. 77).

Second, John administers medications (Gwynn, 2007, p. 77). He also orders her to exercise, however he does not allow her to work (Gwynn, 2007, p. 77). She feels bad about this since she knows that working will play a large role in her recovery (Gwynn, 2007, p. 77). She believes that what she needs is a change in her routine and an activity that will excite her as well so that she can fully recover and do so faster (Gwynn, 2007, p. 77). This is clearly evident when she said, “Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good” (Gwynn, 2007, p. 77).

Third, she has gotten worse because she somehow felt hopelessness in her case (Gwynn, 2007, p. 77). Note how many times she repeated the question, “But what is one to do?”; she is like saying that she can’t do anything about her complaints and sentiments because those are her husband’s orders (Gwynn, 2007, p. 77).

Fourth, she has extreme passion for writing but since she is forbidden to do so as her husband wants her to rest completely, she misses and she does it (Gwynn, 2007, p. 78). However, since she carries that out only secretly, eventually she gets tired of it (Gwynn, 2007, p. 78). She does not like the idea that somebody is opposed to what she is doing (Gwynn, 2007, p. 78).

Fifth, she also mentions to John that she needs to mingle with others but John forces her to stay in that secluded place instead (Gwynn, 2007, p. 78). She also wants John to be there for here to mentally stimulate her and to listen to her opinion but her husband is just to busy with work (Gwynn, 2007, p. 78).

Sixth, it is difficult to be ignored especially in a condition like hers (Gwynn, 2007, p. 78). When she says she feels weird about the house, John says it’s just a ‘draught’ and then he closes the window (Gwynn, 2007, p. 78). He also says that she should learn to control herself so she would not feel that strange feeling again (Gwynn, 2007, p. 78). She feels so ignored with John’s ‘draught comment and that makes her feel so tired (Gwynn, 2007, p. 78). When she says she would like to stay in one of the rooms downstairs which “opened on the piazza and had roses all over the window, and such pretty old-fashioned chintz hangings”, her request has been ignored again by opposing her saying that the room upstairs is much better since it is large enough to accommodate both of them (Gwynn, 2007, p. 78).

Seventh, she also feels that she is strangled (Gwynn, 2007, p. 79). This is very clearly expressed in this sentence, “He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction” (Gwynn, 2007, p. 79). She appreciates that John is careful and loving but for her he is too careful and too loving that she feels strangled already since he does not allow her to do things her way (Gwynn, 2007, p. 79). She feels worse all the more when he says that they were there “solely on her account” in order for him to reiterate his decision that they will stay in the nursery upstairs and not downstairs where she really likes (Gwynn, 2007, p. 79).

Eighth, John is too insensitive (Gwynn, 2007, p. 80). He is not even aware of how bad she is suffering or how serious her anxiety problem is (Gwynn, 2007, p. 80). In addition to that, when she requests that the wallpaper be changed he declines (Gwynn, 2007, p. 81). To address this problem, he wants her to just ignore whatever it is she feels about the wallpaper (Gwynn, 2007, p. 81).

Factors that Drove Her to that State

Based on the story, she experiences anxiousness and gets worse because of her husband (Gwynn, 2007, pp. 77 – 91). The fact that she is unable to work/write worsened her condition; since this is her passion this could have played a large role in preventing herself to worsen (Gwynn, 2007, pp. 77 – 91). Another is that, she experiences seclusion; this is not healthy for those who are experiencing anxiousness and depression (Gwynn, 2007, pp. 77 – 91). If she is not separated from the world then she could have not focused much on that wallpaper and had not imagined weird things that may trigger her condition (Gwynn, 2007, pp. 77 – 91). Finally, John’s oppression and domination over her worsened her state as well (Gwynn, 2007, pp. 77 – 91).

Irony of Her Freedom at the End of the Story

The irony of her freedom at the end of the story is that she has gotten worse (Gwynn, 2007, p. 91). She may have been freed from her husband’s oppression and domination but she has not recovered from her anxiety and gotten worse instead (Gwynn, 2007, p. 91). She may have gotten her freedom from her husband but she has gotten herself locked up in a situation that is more difficult to conquer (Gwynn, 2007, p. 91).

Work Cited

Gwynn, R.S. Literature: A Pocket Anthology, 3rd Ed. London: Longman, 2007.

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