The Yellow Wallpaper was honestly a disturbing tale for me because it shed more light on the toxic gender dynamic during the nineteenth- century. It is obvious through this narration that John, the husband, is assuming he has superior wisdom and maturity over Gilman. He constantly is diagnosing all of her issues, as if he truly knows what is going on with her. He is a physician, but it is clear he has ill intentions by stating she is just experiencing “temporary nervousness”. It’s keeping her ignorant and implementing his power over her. Gilman thinks he is helping her, but he is really just patronizing her.
One line that bothered me was “if a physician of high-standing position, and one’s own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression- a slight hysterical tendency- what is one to do?”. This line illustrates that Gilman did not even attempt to question her husband’s credibility; she did not take it upon herself to dive deeper into what might be wrong with her. Women at this time had very limited individuality, and just went along with what the husband wanted. Gilman is kept in a state of ignorance, and throughout the narrative, she remains in a childish state where she can not stand up for herself.
I think in today’s society, we have made significant strides in empowering women and bringing women into the workforce (especially in male-dominated industries) and out of the domestic space. This toxic power dynamic between husband and wife is not nearly as prevalent today, and I am very grateful for that.
I think John just further represents how society dismisses women and mental health. At the time this was written, I understand that mental health wasn’t very talked-about or studied, and it often got dismissed. The women of the time also always got dismissed into their roles, as we see John’s sister fit that perfect role. Being a woman suffering from mental health might’ve been one of the most silent and alone experiences one could’ve had. This short story definitely gives these women a voice and reveals so much of what is wrong with society.
I agree with you that medicine for women has come a long way but i do think there is certain levels of women being gaslighted is still really common. Many common things like period pain and postpartum depression are still not talked about an accepted.
I like your point about the limited individuality of women during this time period. Women were belittled and demeaned to such extents that, as in the case of this story, they didn’t even question their husbands’ opinion on what goes on inside their own mind. It is disturbing and sad to see that she is in such a helpless position in which her husband exerts dominance over her, and given her social status and sitation at the time, there is nothing she could do about it, and eventually lets it drive her to insanity.