The story "The Yellow Wallpaper," by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, is a story about control. In the late 1800's, women were looked upon as having no effect on society other than bearing children and keeping house. It was difficult for women to express themselves in a world dominated by males. The men held the jobs, the men held the knowledge, the men held the key to the lock known as society . . . or so they thought. The narrator in "The Wallpaper" is under this kind of control from her husband, John. Although most readers believe this story is about a woman who goes insane, it is actually about a woman’s quest for control of her life.
The narrator is being completely controlled by her husband. The narrator's husband has told the her over and over again that she is sick. She sees this as control because she cannot tell him differently. He is a physician so he knows these things. She also has a brother who is a physician, and he says the same thing. In the beginning of the story, she is like a child taking orders from a parent. Whatever these male doctors say must be true. The narrator says, "personally, I disagree with their ideas" (480), and it is clear she does not want to accept their theories but has no other choice. She is controlled by her husband.
Control is exemplified later in the story in the choice of rooms in which she must stay. She has no say whatsoever in this decision. She is forced to stay in a room she is uncomfortable with. This is the bedroom in which John has trapped her; this room is not a room in which she wants to be. The windows are barred and the bed is bolted down. This is a subliminal clue of control. And there is the horrible yellow wallpaper. "I never saw worse paper in my life" (482), she says. She wants to change rooms, to go to one of the more pleasing rooms downstairs. However, she knows that, "John wouldn’t hear of" (481) changing rooms.
John attempts to control even her inner life, her writing. She says that "he hates to have me write a word" (482). He says the writing is not good for people who are sick. He tells her that it will slow down her healing. Writing is the only thing that’s keeping her sane, but she is unable to do it freely. She has to hide her words so John does not find them. This shows that John has mental control as well as physical control.
As the story progresses, the narrator thinks that maybe she could gain some control over things. She begins to gain mental strength from the wallpaper. Her mind begins to churn and she commits the ultimate crime in John’s eyes . . . she thinks. She thinks that maybe John is not entirely correct about everything. However, she knows that she cannot have John know about it. She has to do it in her mind for now. She begins by analyzing the wallpaper. John has told her that she should not let such things bother her. She focuses on it for that simple fact. She feels she knows something that John does not. This is clear when she says, "there are things in...