While analyzing the short story, The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, I had trouble coming up with a theme. There were several ideas that came to mind, but they were hard to generalize. Finally, I decided that a theme for The Yellow Wallpaper could be: Although one allows oneself to be controlled by others seemingly for one’s own well-being, the time comes when one feels suppressed, empty, and a need to escape arises. I feel this theme is well-illustrated in this short story. The woman’s husband, John, who is a physician, really cares for his wife, yet he is too authoritative.
His wife, though she may disagree, is submissive and does what he asks. “John says I mustn’t lose my strength, and has me take cod liver oil and lots of tonics and things, to say nothing of ale and wine and rare meat” (111). She follows his every instruction. Along with controlling his wife’s actions, John manipulates her thoughts. “I sometimes fancy that in my condition if I had less opposition and more society and stimulus – but John says the very worst thing I can do is to think about my condition, and I confess it always makes me feel bad” (17). She believes that he knows what is best for her and has convinced herself that he is right. He also has a way of making her feel guilty.
“He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction…he takes all care from me, and so I feel basely ungrateful not to value it more. He said we came here solely on my account…
” (29-31). John tries to make it seem like she should be getting better just because she is under his care. I believe he had good intentions but did not look deep enough to see that the sickness was within her mind, not her body. John’s dominion over the woman increases until he controls everything she does, even the one thing he does not know she is doing: writing. “There comes John, and I must put this away, – he hates to have me write a word” (39). She is not allowed to work: “So I.
..am absolutely forbidden to ‘work’ until I am well again” (12). She is virtually imprisoned in her bedroom and has no choice in the decor of the room: “I don’t like our room a bit.
I wanted…but John wouldn’t hear of it” (27).
This woman cannot even have visitors: “It is so discouraging not to have any advice and companionship about my work…but he says he would as soon put fireworks in my pillow-case as to let me.