A loving, loyal, strong, and caring partner of a sick is not as flat and fake character as may seem. In the short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the narrator pays a lot of attention to her husband, John, who is a physician and who helps her get well. The protagonist tells the first-person story of her staying in a rental room to recover from the sickness. The key conflict in the story is subtle and it is related to sex roles, where a man decides what is better and a woman submits despite her own opinions.
Conflict in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Gilman
John takes care of his wife and provides everything necessary for her well-being “Dear John! He loves me very dearly and hates to have me sick” (Gilman 651), but the narrator’s mental health gradually declines. For John, all the struggles and problems that the narrator faces are easily solvable. The example of that can be seen in a scene where he invites guests and shares his decision: “John says if I do not pick up faster, he shall send me to Weir Mitchell in the fall” (Gilman 650). Hence, he views himself as the person in charge of the situation that is able to intervene and make everything better. In addition, the fact he wants to announce such information before guests before talking to his wife shows that he is making this decision alone. He is confident that he know what is right and better for his wife.
From the narrator’s point of view, John is a loving and caring husband, who does all he can to help her recover. However, his methods as a physician do not align with the narrator’s ideas: “John is a physician and perhaps that is one reason I do not get well faster.” (Gilman 647). The protagonist views her husband’s intervention as ineffective. She believes that her treatment has to be simpler and more exiting. The disagreement can be seen in the quote “Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good (Gilman 648)”. Thus, there is a conflict of view that is subtle, and the narrator does not feel empowered to be in charge of her own health. In addition, she loves John and is grateful for all the effort that he puts into her recovery.
The short story “The Yellow Wall-Paper” covers the topic of a soft cage that some women can find themselves in. The narrator’s marriage with John is full of love and care, but the husband has the upper hand. John focuses on performing his role as a husband and physician and struggles to hear his wife’s desires. Therefore, the dissatisfaction and helplessness of the narrator leads to her mental decline. The story presents the conflict in sex roles, where a woman has to obey her man’s views on everything, including her own health and body, which leads to a disaster.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wall-Paper and Other Stories. Oxford University Press, 1998.