In The Yellow Wallpaper, various factors fostered a sense of isolation in the protagonist’s psyche, which eventually drove her into insanity. The Narrator experiences isolation in numerous ways that include intellectual isolation, physical isolation, and emotional isolation, and each brings The Narrator closer the deterioration of her sanity. Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s character John, and his behavior, explain why the corrosion of The Narrator’s health took place.
John’s insistence on remaining at the isolated home, his inability to accept the opinion of The Narrator and his belief in his knowledge as a physician leaves the Narrator feeling shut out from society, triggering her insanity. The Yellow Wallpaper portrayed life in the ____, where men had complete authority over the opposite sex deeming the opinions and emotions felt by females insignificant. This allowed men complete control over the social and personal aspects of life, including matters such as women’s health, friendships, and sex life. …but John would not hear of it”(75), is implied throughout the entire story. All her opinions about her own health, what she concluded would assist her to overcome her sickness, all discarded without a second thought. This intellectual isolation rapidly deteriorates the emotional connection to her husband and quickly causes tension between the couple. “‘Better in body perhaps-’ I began, and stopped short, for he sat up straight and looked at me with such a stern, reproachful look that I could not say another word”(82).
John cannot comprehend that The Narrator would understand her body more so than a scholar with a degree in medicine. Nancy Woloclh explained in her document Women and the American Experience, the likelihood of a proficient physician at that time period, “The professionalization of medicine did not ensure its competence…not only were well-trained doctors unlikely to be very effective, but few were well trained,”(Woloclh 1996:77). Although we do not have knowledge if John was such a doctor, we can only suspect from what The Narrator expressed in her ournals; journals filled with comments like, “John is away all day, and even some nights when his cases are serious” (76) and “John is kept in town ever often by serious cases…” (79) suggests that John was having an affair and not actually staying out late like a professional of medicine would. The intellectual isolation experienced by the Narrator, as her thoughts and feelings about her health are ignored, the emotional intimacy and connection felt between husband and wife is diluted.
John, being a male, is able to seek intimacy through other women, while The Narrator cannot seek out any because of her isolation from society. The Narrator’s physical isolation is additional factor that allows insanity to enter her mind. Living miles away from society, she is denied the social interaction needed for females. Her bed “ is nailed down,”(79), her windows are “barred for little children”(76). Several times she tried to get John to permit her to visit
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