Explain the relationship between the narrator and her husband John. Do you believe it is a loving relationship? Why or why not?
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I would not say their relationship is overly loving, but unlike many people, I do not believe that John was intentionally trying to hurt her. I do believe he cares about his wife, he just refuses to admit that his own prescribed treatment, may in fact, be the wrong treatment.
Gilman wrote this story not merely to change one man's view of neurasthenia, but to use the story as a symbol of the oppression of women in a paternalistic society. To begin with, we know the name of the narrator's husband (John), but not her own. She is nearly anonymous; her identity is John's wife. This power imbalance extends to other areas of their relationship. John dominates her, albeit in an ultimately patronizing manner. His strong, practical, and stereotypically masculine nature is skeptical of her seemingly weak, "feminine" disorder (as neurasthenia and other mental illnesses were often categorized), and he, not she, diagnoses her problem and prescribes the cure. When he tells her to exercise self-control over her irritation with him, the effect is ironic; he controls nearly everything about her and even makes her feel ungrateful for not valuing his help enough.
The major function of John's control over her, as with Mitchell's control over Gilman, is his inhibiting her from writing. Though she feels writing would help her recover, as Gilman found, John believes it only saps her strength. He stifles her creativity and intellect and forces her into the domesticated position of a powerless wife.