The Yellow Wallpaper

How is the act of writing both stressful/harmful and freeing / helpful ?


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From the beginning of the story, the narrator’s creativity is set in conflict with John’s rationality. As a writer, the narrator thrives in her use of her imagination, and her creativity is an inherent part of her nature. John does not recognize his wife’s fundamental creativity and believes that he can force out her imaginative fancies and replace them with his own solid rationality. In essence, a large part of the “rest cure” focuses on John’s attempt to remove the narrator’s creativity; by forcing her to give up her writing, he hopes that he will calm her anxious nature and help her to assume her role as an ideal wife and mother.

However, the narrator is not able to suppress her creativity, despite her best efforts to follow John’s instructions. Because she is not able to write openly and feels the repression of her imagination, she inadvertently exercises her mind via the yellow wallpaper. Although the narrator attempts to incorporate John’s rationality into the chaotic pattern of the wallpaper, she fails; the wallpaper cannot be quantified in John’s way. Her repressed imagination takes control, and she loses all sense of reality, becoming lost in delusions and the idea that she herself was the woman trapped in the wallpaper.

Gilman believes in creativity without restraints and argues that the narrator’s repressed imagination is the fundamental cause of her psychotic breakdown. Gilman also suggests that the narrator’s attempt to deny a fundamental part of her nature was doomed from the beginning. John should have been able to accept the true nature of his wife, rather than trying to force her to adhere to the prescriptions of his own personality.