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In your essay, argue that Gilman’s narrator in “The Yellow Wallpaper” does not lose her mind because of any biological sickness or inherent defect

In your essay, argue that Gilman’s narrator in “The Yellow Wallpaper” does not lose her mind because of any biological sickness or inherent defect; rather, she goes insane because of the external forces surrounding her and closing in on her like a pack of wolves. (This, basically, is the nature v. nurture argument.) In other words, argue that Gilman’s narrator is forced into insanity not because of her basic nature but instead because of the patronizing, condescending treatment that she receives at the hands of her husband. Yes, she initially appears to suffer from something like post-partum depression (a biological condition), but again, this is grossly exacerbated by Doctor John’s patriarchal tyranny, which renders her first child-like, then frustrated in her mandated idleness, then a little strange, and then very strange. Perhaps you could organize your essay by focusing on three aspects of Doctor John’s approach toward his wife: a) he fails to take her seriously as a mature/equal partner, b) he forbids her to express herself through intellectual discourse or creative expression, and c) he seems to want her literally to do nothing, to simply “be” (and maybe to look pretty in the process), which means that his wife is forced to take her desires “underground” (into her subterranean self, or selves), expressing them where and how she can. And what is the fallout? I think you know the answer very well: a lunacy that shockingly resembles the madness that ran rampant, sometime before the story’s present tense, in the former asylum in which the couple “vacations.” Gilman, then, is a feminist thinker who believes our personalities are shaped through social construction, not biological determinism.


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