The Yellow Wallpaper: an Analysis of the Main Characters

Syed H. Shah
Professor Erin Nunnally
ENG 112
Date: July 7, 2014
The Yellow Wallpaper: An Analysis of the Main Characters
“The Yellow Wallpaper,” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, is an intricate story about male dominance, their suppression of women during the late 1800s, and the dreaded “resting cure.” What makes the story intriguing is the fact that it can still be applied today to a lot of problems that women face at the hands of men, the implementation of force being the most prominent. The protagonist of the story is the narrator, a woman who is suffering from depression. The antagonist is the narrator’s husband, John, who also happens to be her physician. Now, let’s analyze the main characters and in turn understand what exactly drove the narrator to insanity.
I think of the first line of the story as serving two main purposes: Introducing the narrator and the setting. “It is very seldom that mere ordinary people like John and myself secure ancestral homes for the summer” (Gilman, 956). This sentence tells me three things about the narrator: her gender, her class (most likely upper middle class) and her marriage. Some people might consider these petty details when compared to the main themes. To me, they are not. Look at it this way: the narrator never mentions her name. That suggests that her general characteristics might be more important when it comes to explaining the plot than her name and personal history. So then, the question arises: why are they so vital? Well, simply because they provide the story’s main conflicts. The narrator is a writer and a very sensitive woman. “I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes. I am sure I never used to be so sensitive” (Gilman, 957). After giving birth to a child, she becomes ill and depressed. Her illness puts her in a considerably weak position relative to a very controlling John. “He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction” (Gilman, 957). As her husband and her...