The Yellow Wallpaper Argumentative Essay
“The Yellow Wallpaper,” written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, is about a woman who becomes ill and is kept in bed by her husband, who takes her to a house in the countryside for some fresh, relaxing air. Though she claims that she her health is not improving, her husband, a doctor, remains convinced that she is not really ill. His wife claims that “John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no reason to suffer, and that satisfies him (Gilman).” John did not take his wife’s illness seriously, so he disabled any help that she could have gotten; when John would listen to his wife for those few, brief minutes, he still did very little help, but merely convinced her that the illness was all in her head; then he confined her into a bedroom where the wallpaper was enough to worsen her symptoms and make her breakdown. It was, indeed, the repressiveness of her husband that led to the deteriorating of her health, as well as to her eventual breakdown.
John, her husband, did not take his wife’s illness seriously, no matter how often she claimed that she was ill and that she was not getting better. John not only chose to ignore her pleas of being sick, but he also refused to check into the concerns that she had in regards to her health. “You see he does not believe that I am sick (Gilman).” On the rare moments that he would listen to his wife, John would only respond out of amusement, rather than out of pity or concern for her. During these occasions, his simple advice would be for her to not think about it. “… but John says the very worst thing I can do is to think about my condition … (Gilman)” He plays with her concerns, which only worsens them for her. Even when things obviously become worse for his wife, while he does become concerned, he does nothing to help her.
When John did decide to do something to help his ailing wife, he merely confined her to her bed, not allowing her to do the things that might make her feel better, such as wandering outside or writing, which was the thing that she wanted to do the most. Instead, he would keep her in bed, in a room that she could not stand to be in because she was appalled by the atrocious wallpaper. She describes the wallpaper as being “one of those sprawling flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin (Gilman).” At first, she spends the majority of the time trying to ignore the wallpaper, and instead focuses on trying to get her husband to listen further to the complaints that she has about her illness, as well as complaints that she has in regards to the wallpaper. When she is able to, during the times when her husband is away from the house, she takes to writing or taking walks outside, though these have to be stopped when her husband comes home, for he would be most upset if he were to find her doing something other than resting in bed.
Though her husband was definitely the sole reason that she did not get better, it was the wallpaper that completely unhinged her; this, of course, can be brought back to the husband, who refused to do anything about the wallpaper or about moving his wife to a different room of the house. His wife, at first, tried to ignore the wallpaper, and then she became oddly intrigued by the patterns that it formed. She became convinced that there was a little woman in there trying to get out, so she sought to help her out with the intentions to capture her. This went on for some time; finally, the woman got to be so mesmerized by the wallpapers patterns that she tore the paper from the walls and, while trying to catch the wallpaper-woman, ended up becoming the wallpaper-woman herself. She spent so much time caught up in the nonexistent happenings of the paper, that she lost sense of herself.
While the husband could be blamed for letting the illness get out of hand, who, or what, is really to blame for the wife’s breakdown, the husband or the wallpaper? Throughout the story, the husband refused to believe that his wife was sick, so he refused to give her the proper attention that could lead to her feeling healthy. Yet, while the wife was sick and made to stay in bed until she felt better, she began to have some internal quarrels about the wallpaper in the nursery that she was being kept in. In the end, it was the wallpaper that seemed to have had the greatest effect on her mind; all the same, had her husband listened to her pleas to begin with, she might not have been forced to stay in that room. “He says no one but myself can help me out of it, that I must use my will and self-control and not let any silly fancies run away with me (Gilman).” Her husband was, after all, a doctor, and completely capable of recommending something that would truly help his wife return to better health. Even when she tries to escape from her room, her husband only brings her back into the room that is driving her so mad, which only succeeds in doing so in the very end. John choose to ignore his wife’s pleas, hoping that whatever was ailing her, whether real or not, would simply go away after some time; this shows that sometimes ignorance is not bliss.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wallpaper. New York: Dover Publications, 1997.