“The Yellow Wall-paper”: What Leads to Mental Illness
In “The Yellow Wall-paper”, Charlotte Perkins Gilman uses her short story to show that feeling inferior and not being in control of one’s life can ultimately cause mental illness. Gilman shows this by telling the progression of the main character’s mental state as it is related to the yellow wall-paper that she constantly looks at.
The woman in the story allows herself to be inferior to her husband, John. John is a physician who does not listen to his wife. Though she knows that something is wrong, he believes that she is just tired and needs rest and isolation to feel better. She tries to tell him how she feels he does not believe her. She writes, “You see he does not believe I am sick!”(808). He makes her rest and she is forbidden to work until she feels well again. Though she disagrees with John, she does not let him know. “Personally, I disagree with their ideas. Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change would do me good. But what is one to do?” (808). Her writings show that she does not feel her opinion counts and if she did tell John it would not make a difference.
As the woman lets her husband control her life, her mental state becomes worse. Her mental illness is shown in her description of the wall-paper. She describes the wall-paper as being “dull enough to confuse the eye in following, pronounces enough to constantly irritate and provoke study, and when you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide—plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions” (809-810). The wall-paper is symbolic to her mental illness in a way that she sees herself and how John is treating her. When she wrote “and when you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance” she is referring to following John even though she feels he is wrong. The reference to suicide is what eventually will happen...