Powerless Figures

Categories: The Yellow Wallpaper

In our society today, an estimated 1 in 7 women suffer from a mental disease perpetuated by birth called postpartum depression (American Psychological Association). Although numerous people suggest that postpartum depression is not a serious disease, there are many severe symptoms that come along with this disease including panic attacks, dramatic mood swings, and feelings of worthlessness (American Psychological Association). Most of the world today knows how to deal with postpartum depression, but in earlier society, this was not the case. John’s patronizing nature illustrates Gilman’s claim that men’s controlling behaviors cause women to lose their identities.

John’s desire to restrict how Jane spends her time reflects how men attempted to limit women in marriage.

John prohibits Jane from from writing, even though writing helps manage her condition. While Jane is discussing about her writing, she states, “I did write for a while in spite of them; but it does exhaust me a good deal - having to be so sly about it, or else meet with heavy opposition” (Gilman 1670).

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John requires that she quit writing until she is cured of her disease, which drives her crazy because she uses writing to cope with her disease. Since John restricts Jane from participating in her hobbies, Jane has a difficult time relieving her stress. Furthemore, women took on oppressive gender roles in society because in the Yellow Wallpaper, John relentlessly attempts to keep Jane from doing any type of labor. When Jane is in disagreement with her husband John, she states, “[I] am absolutely forbidden to 'work' until I am well again.

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Personally, I disagree with their ideas. Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good” (Gilman 1670). John continues to put restrictions on how jane spends her time, even though Jane knows that limitations will not help her condition. Society has persuaded men to believe that the best way to cure post partum depression is rest cure, but putting limitations on women destroys the opportunity of curing the disease. Women had to battle oppressive gender roles because society limits how they spend their time and forces them to concentrate on their wifely and motherly duties. Because John treats Jane like a child, women’s powerlessness is reflected in society.

In the Yellow WallPaper, Women are portrayed as powerless figures in society because Jane is forced to submit to her husband’s dominion. When John confrontes Jane in the middle of the night, he states, “What is it, little girl? Don’t go walking around like that - you’ll get cold” (Gilman 1675). John’s tone toward Jane is condescending, because gives Jane commands as if Jane were his child. Jane is powerless in comparison with her husband because she submits to her husband and is required to follow his orders. Moreover, women are portrayed as powerless figures in society because in the Yellow Wallpaper, Jane is easily persuaded by her husband to agree with his decision to stay at the house until she is cured. While John is arguing with Jane, he states, “Really dear you are better!... Can you not trust me as a physician when I tell you so” (Gilman 1676) and Jane ends the conversation by accepting John’s decision and going to bed. Jane is not capable of standing up to John because she views John as superior to herself. Jane wants to leave their country house because she realizes her condition has not gotten better, but she submits to her husband because society has deemed woman as powerless in comparison to men. Women are portrayed as powerless figures because society requires them to submit their power to their husband during the Cult of Domesticity. Instead of allowing Jane to have an identity, John’s controlling nature is what keeps Jane locked up from society until she is cured of her disease. During the Cult of Domesticity, all women are prohibited from having an identity outside their house and this is shown by Jane not being allowed to leave her room. While Jane is realizing that she came out of the wallpaper, she states, “I wonder if they all come out of that wallpaper as I did?” (Gilman 1680). Jane was not able to leave her room and have an identity outside of her home, which caused her to alter her identity. Jane’s identity was changed into the identity of the woman in the wallpaper, because her condescending husband John isolated her from society.

In addition to this, the Yellow Wallpaper provides instances where women are prohibited from possessing an identity because Jane realizes that being locked up in a room without any insight to the natural world makes her suffer. At the end of the story when jane finally escapes from the room, she states, 'I've got out at last, in spite of you and Jane? And I've pulled off most of the paper, so you can't put me back!' (Gilman 1681). Ever since John had trapped Jane inside of the room, she longed for a chance to escape and return to her old identity. Because Jane was isolated in her room by society, her identity was transformed forever, and society will never be able to “put [her] back”. Because of men’s patronizing behavior, women are forced to lose their true identities in marriage. All along John was attempting to cure his wife from post-partum depression, but the way he did it was far from correct. John’s condescending behavior illustrates Gilman’s argument that men’s authoritarian nature cause women to lose their identities. John’s pursuit toward curing Jane’s disease involved restricting hobbies, treating her like a child, and isolating the victim; but since her hobbies relieve her from her condition, her power is submitted to her husband, and her identity was changed forever, the plan to cure the disease failed miserably.


Updated: Dec 12, 2023
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Powerless Figures. (2022, Jun 05). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/powerless-figures-essay

Powerless Figures essay
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