Control In The Yellow Wallpaper

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Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper presents a number of forms of control that the narrator is confronted with throughout the story. The forms of control presented in this story serve to demonstrate the oppressive weight of the patriarchy experienced by women at the time The Yellow Wallpaper was written. Gilman displays patriarchal control in both physical and psychological forms. She also presents a narrator who has internalized these oppressive expectations and her descent into madness which allows her a glimpse at freedom. Gilman uses the character of John to impose multiple forms of control on the narrator to demonstrate the effects of the patriarchal control that women faced when The Yellow Wallpaper was written. The system …show more content…

The narrator is brought to a “colonial mansion” (Gilman “The Yellow Wallpaper” 831) to help her get better and while that sounds lovely it is more insidious than it appears. The house that John brings her to isolates her physically from everyone other than John and Jennie. In the yard surrounding the property “there are hedges and walls and gates that lock” (Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper” 831). This demonstrates that not only has she been removed from most everyone she knows she is also not able to freely leave the property. The control that John has over her surroundings can also be seen in the room that she is forced to stay in. The narrator writes that she does not like her room and that she “wanted on downstairs that opened on the piazza... but John would not hear of it (Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper” 832). John refuses to let the narrator have a ground floor room which would provide her with a certain level of freedom. Additionally, being allowed to make that choice and having a room away from him may have loosened John’s control over the narrator, which cannot be allowed. Instead, John places himself and the narrator in an upstairs room that was “a nursery first and then a playroom and gymnasium” (Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper” 832), that is, a room that has been designed for children. The nursery has “windows [that] are barred” (Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper” 832) and there is …show more content…

As her doctor John has the ability to make his own assessments of what he believes will help her, and as her husband, he has the power to fully enforce these recommendations within the home. The narrator has been given “a schedule prescription for each hour in the day; he takes all care from me” (Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper” 832). She is not allowed to make decisions for herself regarding when she wants to do certain activities as every decision has been made for her and every minute of her day has been accounted for. Additionally, the narrator notes that John is very careful and loving, and hardly lets [her] stir without special direction” (Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper” 832). While the narrator portrays this positively it is likely that she is trying to convince herself that John’s control is not simply a way for him to exercise his authority over her and that he truly wants to care for her. However, the fact that she is not allowed to do anything that is not in her list of prescribed activities or something that John has specifically instucted her to do shows the complete control that John possesses over the narrator. John’s power mirrors the power of other men in this patriarchal

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