The Yellow Wallpaper

What factors contribute to the narrator’s breakdown? How does Gilman portray this? The novella The Yellow Wallpaper is a small masterpiece written by, Charlotte P Gilman. She enlightens her readers to the living conditions of a middle class woman during the late 1800s. This is portrayed through use of the narrator, who documents the different factors that impact upon the different stages of her mental breakdown. The readers can see that through the novel, Gilman portrays the life of a young woman who struggles to maintain her integrity as an individual in the everyday society.

The restricted environment that the narrator lives in is one of the main factors that contributes to her mental breakdown. John, the husband who is also a physician takes great care of the narrator and sometimes becomes over protective. This could be seen through the novel as she describes how she has a schedule timetable for the day to day activity put in by. “I have a schedule prescription for each hour in the day; he takes all care from me, and so I feel basely ungrateful not to value it more. The narrator tries to break out of her emotional bubble and expresses her feelings but is not allowed to, as her husband John does not allow her to communicate with the outside society. No communication with the outside society was contributing factor that cause the narrator a mental breakdown. “ John says we will ask Cousin Henry and Julia down for a long visit; but he says would as soon put fireworks in my pillow case as to let me have those stimulating people about now”.

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In John’s eyes the narrator is not allowed any sort of stimulation because of John’s job, the narrator believes that he is just being caring, loving and doing what’s best for her. Another factor that leads to narrator’s breakdown is the room itself that she is living in. She expresses that she wishes to move down stairs, “I don’t like our room, I wanted one down stairs” because she did not like the bars on the windows or the horrible wallpaper and the bed that was bolted to the floor, but “John would not hear of it”.

At first the narrator tolerated the wallpaper, but as time went on the wallpaper became a contributing factor to making her go “crazy”. Little did the narrator know about how fearful John was of her running away, that he treated her almost like a prisoner. The narrator describes herself as an imaginative woman who loves interaction with people, stimulation and to be creative, but John takes all of this away from her, as he is trying to help her. In the end all of his helping ways were the factors that worsened her mental breakdown.

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