who is the husband really?
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The husband of the narrator, John is a practical physician who believes that his wife is suffering from nothing more than a “slight hysterical tendency.” He prescribes the “rest cure,” confining the narrator to the nursery and forbidding her to exercise her creative imagination in any way. His antagonism toward her imagination stems from his own rationality and personal anxiety about creativity; he scoffs openly at the narrator’s fancies and is incapable of understanding her true nature. Throughout the story, he treats her in an infantile manner, referring to her as his “blessed little goose” and “little girl.” Moreover, when the narrator attempts to discuss her unhappiness with the situation in a mature manner, he refuses to accept her as an equal and simply carries her back up to the nursery for more bed rest. He is fixed in his authoritative position as husband and doctor and cannot adapt his strategy to account for her opinion on the matter. He believes in a strict, paternalistic divide between men and women; men work outside of the home, as he does, while women like Jennie, his sister, and Mary, the nanny, tend to the house.
Although John is set up as the villain of the story, he can also be seen as a more sympathetic character. He clearly loves his wife and relies on her for his own happiness. Yet he is unable to reconcile her creative desires with his own rationality or the chauvinistic expectations of the time period. His wife is unable or unwilling to adhere to the ideal model of domesticity expressed by the 19th-century society, and John is at a loss as to what to do. His solution is to use Weir Mitchell’s rest cure to “fix” his wife, and he does not realize that his own actions push her over the edge of insanity.