In Charlotte Perkins Gilman short story A Yellow Wallpaper deals with the way women were treated in the nineteenth century. It enlightens the reader on womens health, motherhood, mental breakdown, and its treatment as well as feminism and gender relations. Conventional nineteenth century middle class with its distinction between the domestic functions of women and the active work of men insured that women would remain second class. In the story Johns assumptions of his own superior wisdom leads him to misjudge and dominate his wife.
The narrator is reduced to acting like a child unable to stand up for herself without unreasonable and disloyalty.
The mental constraints that John placed upon the narrator, even more than the physical ones, is what drove her insane. She is forced to hide her anxieties and fears to help her marriage. She is made to become completely passive, forbidden from exercising her mind. Writing is off limits, and John warns her many times that she must use her self-control to stop her imagination, which he fears will run away with her.
She is constantly longing for an emotional outlet, even going as far as to keep a secret journal that is a relief to her mind.
The connection between the narrator and John is not just a couple relationship, but he is also her doctor. Gilman brings out both forms of authority that can be easily abused, even when the husband or doctor means to help. All to often when women are silent subjects of this authority or worse.
John belittles both her illness, thoughts, and concerns in general. He believes all she needs is rest and therefore, her treatment is to do nothing, no work, and no writing. He feels like it would make her condition worst if she does any form of writing or work. The narrator disagrees with him about that kind of treatment he wants for her.
Gilman who was a feminize also suffered from severe depression and went through several treatments. She also suffered for postpartum depression. During this time, a neurologist developed the rest cure in the late 1800s for the treatment of nervous illnesses. Which would later be abolished due to not helping the illness. So, through all of Gilmans mental illnesses she was able to write The Yellow Wallpaper before she committed suicide. In her writing, she portrays a willful woman who tries to help herself.
The Yellow Wallpaper would be considered a gothic story especially in todays society. This story will also be known as a classic feminize literature. Women today are not considered middle class because of their work and education. Our medical fields have produced more knowledge, medication, and mental help hotlines to help mental illnesses. So, may we all look at women in a very respectful way.