For John Modern day feminists enjoy looking into the past to find examples offemale oppression.
This tactic is employed in the hopes of demonstrating thatoppression of their sex by the evil male populous has been going on for decades.One such work that is cited by feminists to showcase just how terrible womenwere treated in the first part of the twentieth century is Charlotte PerkinsGilmans The Yellow Wallpaper. Feminists are quick to point out thatthe main character in this story is driven down the path of insanity by heruncaring husband. It is of their opinion that John, the main charactershusband, consistently neglects her by keeping her locked away upstairs. Otherfeminists argue that the main character was not actually insane, rather, she waspushed into a temporary state of delirium as a result of the state ofconfinement that her husband subjected her to.
These same feminists will saythat Johns consistent misdiagnosis of his wifes condition smacks ofincompetence. It is their theory that if the main character were a man duringthis same period of time, doctors would have treated the condition differently.In other words, men were not diagnosed with hysteria and bedridden for threemonths when they became depressed. As mentioned before, this is what some modernday feminists think. This is in stark contrast to the interpretation by usmodern day realists. John was a good husband that cared deeply about hiswifes condition. He is described at the beginning of the story as being aphysician in high standing (The Norton Anthology, p.
658). This descriptionalone offers deep insight into what kind of treatment his wife was receiving. Itis hard to imagine that any woman who is married to an extremely prominentdoctor is going to receive anything less than highest quality of treatmentavailable. Johns love for his wife is further exemplified by him obtaining ananny to watch over the baby until she recovers. He wanted her full, completerecovery to come about in an expedited manner. He obviously was aware of thestrain caring for a baby puts upon a lady. Oppressive husbands are more akin topiling all of the burdens of child rearing and house maintenance upon theirwives.
Here, we have just the opposite. John did everything within his power torelieve the everyday stresses of his beloved wife by acquiring the services of ananny. His wife was cognizant of this fact, for she plainly states the Johnloves her dearly, and hates to have her sick (The Norton Anthology, p. 662). Thenext myth that needs to be dispelled is that of John keeping his wife lockedaway in the house, thereby causing her to go insane.
Feminists would like us tobelieve that John locked his wife away in a drab, musty cell, forbidding her toventure outside. The story paints a starkly different picture. At the beginningof the story, the character speaks rather fondly of the room, calling it asairy and comfortable a room as any one need wish (The Norton Anthology, p.
660). By her utterances here, one can quite easily ascertain that she is indeedcomfortable in her new surroundings. The character is also of absolute libertyto explore the rose garden outside at anytime that she wished. This is proventrue by two crucial examples from the story.
The first is taken from thecharacters own mouth, from when she directly states that she walks a littlein the garden or down that lovely lane, and sits on the porch under theroses (The Norton Anthology, p. 662). By her own admission, she is able towander outside upon her own free will. The second example that demonstrates thelevel of freedom that resides with her is the fact that her husband is away allday, and even some nights, attending to other patients. If John is not there toensure that she is being locked up, how then can one deduce that he is strippingher of any freedoms? She was at complete liberty to move about as she sodesired, for absolutely nobody was there to stop her from acting upon her ownfree will.
She stayed inside most of the day primarily because she wished to.The next controversy explored here is that of whether or not the wife was insaneby nature, or if it was John that pushed her into the realm of madness. Somefeminists may argue that John clearly was responsible for the deterioratingcondition of his dearly beloved. Again, the realists interpretation isextremely different. Nothing that John could have done would have done anythingto prevent the inevitability of his wifes transformation into an insanelunatic. She seems to be fine at the beginning of the story. Her thoughts andwords are testimony to that of a person suffering from extreme boredom.
As thestory unfolds, her thoughts turn into rather bizarre and nonsensical ramblingsabout women trapped behind the yellow wallpaper that decorates the room. At onepoints, she writes down that she thought seriously of burning down thehouse (The Norton Anthology, p.666). That definitely is not the rationaleexhibited by sane individuals. John, meanwhile, consistently reassures her thatshe is getting better.
He notes her color coming back and her appetitereturning. Physically, she was getting better. John was a doctor, not apsychologist, therefore, his treatment of her physical ailments were indeedworking. There was nothing that he could have done for her mental deterioration.If blame is to be administered to any character for the mental breakdown ofJohns wife, then she herself must be held accountable for her own insanity.
It was she, whom by exercising her own free will, decided not to venture outsideanymore. Again, at the beginning of the story, she remarks rather freely abouthow she liked to sit on the porch under the roses. As madness strengthens thehold upon her cerebrum, she loses her interest in going outside. She venturedoutside toward the end of the story, only to remark that she found no appeal inthe outdoors. Johns wife longed for the yellowness of the upstairs room. Shehad found a sudden lack of fondness for the greenery that was showcased outsideof the friendly confines of the yellow room.
Of course, the most damning pieceof evidence against the theory that John caused his wifes insanity by keepingher locked inside the house reveals itself at the end of the story. The femaleheroine writes for us that she locked herself inside the house and threwthe key onto the footpath. This is extremely problematic if the theory that Johnwas keeping his wife locked away is to be believed. If he was keeping her lockedup, why did she have access to the key? The mere fact that she had a keyindicates that she was there upon her own free will.
The second piece ofevidence displayed that vindicates John comes when she locks herself inside ofthe house. If she knew that she was going insane because of the actions of herhusband, and longed to be outside, why then did she lock herself inside? Johnwas said to be gone all day and, in particular, that night. If she were feelingas oppressed as some would have us to believe, she would have taken that goldenopportunity to flee the so-called dungeon that her husband had created for her.It can only be assumed that she enjoyed the prison that she created for herselfsince she didnt flee at any moment of opportunity. In summary, John should bechampioned as a role model for all aspiring husbands. He consistently showedcomplete devotion and concern for his wife throughout the story. He dideverything within his power to make sure that she would have an expeditedrecovery from her ailments.
John bent over backwards to ensure that all of hiswifes needs were taken care of. Leave it to modern day feminists to find harmin that.BibliographyGilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wallpaper. The Norton Anthologyof American Literature, Ed. Nina Baym. Fifth Edition, Volume 2.
W.W. Norton& Company, New York.
1998. P. 657-69.English Essays