Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s novel tells about the worsening mental condition of the female narrator. The main character lives in a society, where men dominate, she has no control over her life, and this situation adds to her madness. The development of madness in the novel is reflected by the narrator’s change in attitude to her husband, and her growing obsession with wallpaper, and her perspective of herself behind this wallpaper. The cure prescribed by the doctor – to rest – was more not a cure, but a perfect condition for the madness to flourish.
In the beginning of the story, the narrator’s relationship with her husband, John, is trustworthy. She doesn’t agree that the rest is a good cure for her and instead wants to work. However, she believes that her husband knows better, and she feels a little guilty for her disagreeing opinion. She wants to write more freely in her notebook, but she can’t, because she knows John will disapprove of it. Her notebook is the only way, where she can freely express herself, but keeping it a secret is a tiring effort. At one point keeping a notebook in a secret becomes even greater than a relief obtained from writing in it. This is when her attitude towards her husband changed. She doesn’t trust him anymore. She realizes that she is being reprimanded and this develops into paranoia. She thinks her husband’s behavior is no longer normal, and she suspects that she is affected by the yellow paper. This suspicion disturbs her, because she wants no one to know about what is behind the wallpaper.
The narrator develops intimate relationships with the wallpaper, as it’s her companion. At first, she feels revulsion towards it and doesn’t like the color and the pattern. A couple of weeks later she starts to project her personality on the wallpaper, she blames it for slowing her healing. But then she looks closely into it and behind the pattern notices a weird figure. At this moment her madness is vague, but more evident. The figure behind the paper becomes real to her. The wallpaper becomes her obsession and she can’t stop looking at it. What she sees in the wallpaper is her secret that she can keep from her husband. She finds an escape within the paper.
The narrator is sure that there is a woman behind the paper, as it expresses her own desire to be free. After some time, narrator’s desire for freedom gets bigger and she tries to help the woman escape by tearing off the wallpaper.
The narrator of the novel becomes mad to escape the patriarchal dominance in the society. The descent into the madness is shown through her deteriorating trust in her husband, the obsession with the wallpaper, and by delusions of a woman trapped behind the pattern of the wallpaper.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s novel tells about the worsening mental condition of the female narrator. The main character lives in a society, where men dominate, she has no control over her life, and this situation adds to her madness.