Her relationship with John her husband is also a powerful image and

Table of Contents

Her relationship with John, her husband, is also a powerful image, and a key part of her road to insanity. John, who is ‘practical in the extreme’ and ‘a physician’, puts his wife on ‘the rest cure’, forcing her to stay in bed for hours. He constantly talks condescendingly to her, making her stay in the nursery, like a small child. John also never calls the narrator by her true name, instead choosing to call her ‘blessed little goose’ or simply, ‘dear’ hereby patronising her greatly. He also has a lack of respect for his wife, dismissing her ideas about how ill she truly feels and looking at her ‘with such a stern, reproachful look that I could not say another word’ This feels like he is abusing her mentally. Not only is he locking her away literally, without stimulation, but also by shutting down her ideas and free will. However, on a deeper level, this is not just about the immediate story. In regard to the rest cure, Gilman is criticising the medical care that the narrator, and so most women, are receiving; it ignores the concerns of the patient and does not consider her valid opinions. Gilman is also linking the submissiveness in the home and in the doctor patient relationship because John represents, of course, both. She shows that although the man clearly means to help, his authority is ill-used. Corresponding to the feminist movement and treatment of women, John does not here just represent one man. As John is a fairly common name, I believe that he is meant to represent most men who may abuse their authority over their wives. Gilman is using John as a metaphor for all men. I believe this is powerful as here as it is condemning all of the men who subconsciously do this to their wives by forcing ideas onto them and taking away their voice. Not only is Gilman saying this about the domestic side, but also about the medical side; Gilman does not believe women are have a lack of autonomy.Perhaps the most powerful part of the story though, is the focus on the importance of self-expression. Constraints on expression is what finally drives the narrator insane. She hides her unhappiness by ‘cry most of the time. Of course I don’t when John is here’ in order to keep up the act that she is happy, and that she is getting better. The thing that she hates most is the idleness, and hates being ‘forbidden to “work” until she is better again’. The thing that she is especially forbidden from doing is writing, but she enjoys doing it. The book is actually her writing, which is what helps to create the instant intimacy that you feel with her. Our narrator descries this as a ‘relief’ for her mind. This is the same for Gilman. In her biography she writes that when she was ‘prevented from writing, she soon had a nervous breakdown’. Gilman shows the stifling of the narrator’s creative spirit by not only her husband, but the society itself. It is very powerful as it is throughout the book that you see how she is forced to become a different person, a shadow, when she is around her husband.