Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s story “The Yellow Wallpaper” describes the mental state of a person who in my opinion suffers from what we call today “postpartum depression.” The person is also the narrator and throughout the story it becomes evident that her mental health gradually worsens. What sounds like a complete paradox is the fact that her husband John, “a physician of high standing”, fails to see that the therapy he prescribes is in fact detrimental to his wife’s well being. He is deaf for her pleas for help. He treats her as a child, not as his equal. He even talks to her in a very infantile way. When she wakes up in the middle of the night, he says to her, “What is it, little girl? Don’t go walking like that–you’ll get cold”. She is even given the room in the house that used to be the nursery. John displays a very superior and controlling behavior over her. Even though she expresses her feelings and communicates her needs for writing and socializing, her husband along with the other members of the family does not acknowledge them. Again, he is a doctor and his ego plays an important role. He cannot possibly be wrong!
Being isolated and idle most of the time, she becomes obsessed with the pattern of the wallpaper. What she makes out of it basically indicates her state of mind. Towards the end of the story she appears almost insane. The author does a great work on describing the pattern and the woman’s behavior. The reader gets completely immersed, all of his senses stimulated.
The narrator identifies with the lady behind the bars who tries to escape. I believe that the narrator herself subconsciously wants to escape from isolation, and potentially her controlling husband, and let her suppressed imagination and creativity lead her back to recovery.