A couple weeks ago, Cecilia Lasa, our literature teacher told us to write an essay on “The Yellow Wallpaper” without the conclusion. We were to send it to her so she could correct it and then, with the corrections made, we had to type up a conclusion and upload it. I worked with Luz Garcia Fernandez:
“The Yellow Wallpaper” is written upon a paradox: the man and woman’s relationship.
In the story “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman we can see how the husband and wife are not who they seem to be throughout the story. John is a physician, he shows a lot of concern for his wife, while his wife, who is ‘sick’ is put away from her child and is isolated. In the end we are able to see how the situation is changed and there is a change in their roles as ‘crazy’ people.
On the one hand, there is the Husband, a doctor. We see how this character metonymically reflects positivism. He “scoffs openly at any talk of things not to be felt and seen and put down in figures.” Since he is a man of science, there needs to be a concrete reason for everything. He was a man who in that time had the upper hand on decisions, he was the one who provided for the family and was basically ‘the king of the house’. At the start of the story we see how he portrays his wife as the crazy one, keeping her away from her own child, imprisoning her in the house, not letting her work until she is ‘well again’. Such decision is left to his own criteria which disregards his wife’s say in the matter. This situation reproduces the typical Victorian relationship: he is in power, she is submissive. But towards the end the tables turn, the woman takes the power, when he is trying to open the door and she would tell him to go get the key: “The key is down by the front door, under the plantain leaf”. She kept trying for him to just go and do the job for once instead of her having to obey him every single time. After this is one of the most crucial moments in the story, where roles change. The husband opens the door and faints and she doesn’t even recognize him as her husband anymore, he is a stranger for her: “Now why should that man have fainted?” He is not John for her anymore, he is not her husband, he is a complete stranger in her way. This is where the reversal occurs, where husband and wife change roles.
On the other hand, there is the wife and her role change. She is a stay-at-home mother who was dragged to this huge house three miles from the village to be with herself until she is well again. We have to emphasize on the fact that John is the one who decides when she is better. “[The house] is quite alone standing” is clearly a reflection of her situation since her husband is working all the time and she is always in the room with the yellow wallpaper. The narrator makes us think she is the crazy one throughout the whole story but at the end, comes the change in roles. “”I’ve got out at last,” said I, “in spite of you and Jane.” This is the moment in the story where we have to rethink it all and wonder who the crazy really is. She feels liberated from her controlling husband. “And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back!”” John thinks she’s sick, and she thinks John is manipulating her. She doesn’t feel crazy. But, we don’t know what John feels. We would have to hear the story from another point of view to really understand who is the insane character.
To complete our theory, we don’t know if either of them are crazy, but the writer wants to confuse us and leave it to us to decide. Naturally, because John is a man of science you would think the woman is mad. However, we showed to you this other possibility, this other possible theory.