Madness? or an Act of Freeing Oneself

The yellow Wallpaper by Charlott is definitely interesting to say the least. It’s about a woman who has been brought to a large colonial house by her “loving” and “caring” husband for the sake of helping her improve her health. Now that I’ve got the intro out of the way, let’s talk about the main argument of this story. Is the main character dissenting into madness or is she finding herself and who she is as a person and in doing so setting herself free.

First, let’s get to know main character. We aren’t given a name nor does the story explicitly give it to us so I’m just going to call her Jane Doe. Now, Jane Doe is an  upper middle class woman who is married to a well known physician. Jane is a rather passive woman who tries not to anger or upset anyone. Now, this isn’t because she’s the kind of person who doesn’t want to bother people. It more has to do with the fact that she herself doesn’t want to “disturb”  or “annoy” her husband, John. Who she seems to be afraid of more than love (This doesn’t stop her from lying to her self over and over again to reaffirm the “fact” that her John is a  “loving” “caring” and “patient” person.) She loves to write mostly because the fact that it’s the only form of expression she can use considering the fact that anything else she does to entertain herself usually gets stifled by her husband’s  “better Judgement” Oh, she also has a kid too which she rarely ever sees. I’m sure saying her husband had a hand in that for reasons not directly explained (Likely chance he doesn’t let them meet for the sake of his wife’s health) would be a safe enough assumption to make  (If the professor is reading this then: Yes, i know we shouldn’t make assumptions but, limiting one’s interpretation of a story by the text itself can be so boring….Kind of like how the main character feels when it comes to feeling limited.)

Now, let’s talk about the husband. John is a well known physician who seems to be the kind of person who is completely sure of his diagnosis when it comes to figuring out what may be wrong with a specific person. He may seem like a patient and caring man but, by how he acts when his wife brings up specific topics like her health and well being, that patient attitude ends up becoming more of an illusion or a front. He’s the controlling sort, which shows as plain as day when the main character talks about her carefully made daily routine that he makes for her. He also has a sister (whose name is Jane) who is just like him but even more so (Main character’s words not mine.)

Now that I’ve gotten the main 3 characters out of the way, 4 if you want to count “the woman in the wallpaper, let’s now address the elephant in the room. Is the main character dissenting into madness or is she Trying to break free of her forcefully imposed restraints. I think it’s obvious where my stance lies by how i worded that last sentence. The character is desperately trying to break free of the constraints that are imposed on her and the constraints that are imposed on her by herself. It has been brought up time and time again that the character goes with whatever her husband and sister in law says. Jane Doe seems to afraid to go against what  John says so she meekly goes with it regardless of how she herself feels about it. But, If you were to really look at it,  almost nothing in Jane’s life is of her own control. Everything is being decided by others. So, the fact that she writes when no one is around (even though  writing is a forbidden pastime because it would be detrimental to her recovery. (John’s words not mine).) makes it all the more apparent that Jane herself is constantly stifled by the world she lives in.  So, Jane Doe, secluded from society, in a room that she herself hates can do nothing but write when alone, follow her husband’s orders and well..that’s it. Or, well, I would say “that’s it” but, there is one thing that Jane always talks about. And that thing is the yellow wallpaper. The wallpaper that is ripped and faded. The wallpaper that Jane herself hates the very existence of. And you want to know why she hates it? It’s because of the fact that the yellow wallpaper directly represents her life. Jane Doe herself doesn’t know this but we as the reader end up realising at as the story goes on. From the beginning of the story, Jane constantly talks about how she hates the wallpaper. She hated the images that the ugly yellow color brought up, she hated the patterns that looked like bars. And as the story went on, Jane started to see something in in the wallpaper this something was a being of sorts, a caged woman in fact . This being who seems to be behind the the white bars. This being that incessantly shakes the bars at night and seems to go quiet during the day. For the sake of convenience, let’s call this being the “shadow.” As the story goes on, Jane starts to become more and more entranced with the shadow. The way it desperately shakes the bars at night, the way it escapes its cage to go outside, the way it hides from others as they come into or out of the house. The shadow (in my honest opinion) seems to be Jane herself personified. A personification that only she can see in this ugly, disturbing and downright limiting yellow wallpaper and outside her window. As the the shadow shakes the cage, it represents Jane’s willingness to break away from her controlling captors. As the shadow walks outside to creep, it represents Jane’s yerning to go outside and just be able to do what she wants without anyone telling her otherwise. Which brings us to the ultimate conclusion. When Jane ultimately decided to break the shadow out of it’s cage by ripping out the wallpaper. As Jane, rips the paper, the shadow helps by shaking the cage. This represents Jane finally going out of her way to do what she so desperately wants to do. To be free. And the one person she wants to show this to. The most important person that she herself wants to bare witness to his glorious event is the main person that has been keeping her caged. Her husband. We as the reader end up realising this when Jane locks herself in the and subsequently throwing the key out the window onto the front porch. Jane would tell no one about the key other then John. To Jane, her husband is the jail warden, to her, he’s the one that is the main cause of almost everything in her life that she so very much hates. Which is why, this story in my very humble opinion is about a caged woman finally breaking free rather than dissenting into inevitable madness.




3 thoughts on “Madness? or an Act of Freeing Oneself

  1. Kina

    I agree with how you describe the story. I was thinking the same thing. I thought that the ending of the story was not only about her being free to be herself, but she finally got her husband to listen to her. I believe that by hanging herself She finally expressed herself to her husband.

    P.S I got the idea that she killed herself because the story talked about her secretly having a rope and putting up. Her husband came in and sees her, then passes out.

  2. Heder Pastuizaca

    I like the way the story is described and how the characters are presented. I also agree that the husband’s attitude doesn’t resemble that of a caring one and I feel that (assumption here) he was denial about her condition everytime she brought it up, because he mentions how her condition has improved. When he is witness to the wallpaper and what the narrator does to herself (See i though she also killed herself but I am not a hundred precent sure) and the shock makes him faint is my reasoning behind that.


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