Her relationship with her husband is not an even one. They have contrasting characteristics “John laughs at me, of course but one expects that”. John mocks her views and she accepts it. John uses a patronising tone with her as though he talks down to her, “blessed little goose”. While she is in this state John forbids her to have any contact with family.
There was no such thing as a mental illness in those days; doctors were only receptive to physical illnesses. All doctors were male and in her case only saw her illness as a “slight hysterical tendency”. The cure prescribed was that she was “forbidden to work”, until she was well again. This drove her to writing in secret, “it is getting to be a great effort for me to think straight”. This is ironic as she is supposed to rest, and the wallpaper in her room is exhausting her. This makes her mental condition worse and she drifts into the first stages of insanity. Therefore we can see that it is male society’s rules that drove her to this.
She starts to get a fixation with the wallpaper “this is dull enough to confuse the eye in following …. And when you follow the lane uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide – plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions”. The wallpaper starts to display and reflect the deterioration of her mental state and as she rips away at the paper the layers of paper portray an illusion of her sanity being ripped away.
This is her final stage of sanity. “The faint figure behind seemed to shake the pattern, just as if she wanted to get out”. Perhaps she feels as though she is a figure and perhaps imagining herself behind the paper. She sees this woman behind the paper, “And I’ll tell you why-privately-I’ve seen her!”. She talks very secretly to us, the reader. She starts to think that the woman is real and active in the daytime. As time runs out on her three months stay she starts to tear away at the paper: this is either her final mental breakdown and insanity, or her last effort to free herself and recover.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman has portrayed the unfair treatment of women during the late 1800’s using the yellow wallpaper, and this treatment may also have played a part in her mental illness, as her husband was a typical man of this era and society. Perkins Gilman created this character after having a real life experience of ill treatment and isolation herself. The writer wrote the yellow wallpaper after having first hand experience, making this effective in terms of portraying patriarchal attitudes towards women at that particular time. Her husband john is representative of narrow-minded male rule at that time, he “forbids” her, he patronises her and commands her in all things. Her creative identity is destroyed and, as a result her entire sense of self-identity is destroyed.