After reading Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper I was not completely convinced that the cause(s) of Sophy's mental collapse rested entirely with her actions. Although we came to a consensus in class that John, Sophy's husband, was not at fault for his wife's mental breakdown, I would have to disagree with this conclusion and say that he played a major role in the eventual demise of his wife. Throughout the story of The Yellow Wallpaper, a number of instances arise where one can see how John's actions may have added to Sophy's increasing mental instability. By identifying these examples and explaining how they might have affected Sophy's shaky mental state, it will be evident that John did in fact have a significant influence on Sophy's mental condition.
The first example where John can be seen as a hindrance to Sophy's recovery comes on the first page of the story. Here, Sophy writes in her diary that because of John's profession (physician), he may be a factor in her 'slow' recovery. Since John is a well respected doctor of the time, no one wants to question his authority on issues of medical importance. But what if his diagnoses are wrong? What if his remedies of phosphates, tonics, and seclusion are not what is best for Sophy? There is no one to disagree with his decisions except Sophy, a woman who John treats as nothing more than a crazy child. This idea leads me to my second thought of why John could be partially responsible to Sophy's mental collapse. While John does have Sophy's best interests at heart, I feel that the way he treats her only adds to her already jumbled mental state. There are numerous examples throughout the story where Sophy accuses John of laughing at her because of the occurrence of incidents associated with her illness. Although this might not seem like a big deal, I am sure it is quite frustrating to have someone who is supposed to be taking care of you to make a joke about your mental health. Aside from laughing at his wife's struggles with reality, John can be seen as adding to Sophy's decreasing mental capacity by only communicating with her on a grade-school level. He refers to her as a mother would her children; and I don't know about you, but that would surely drive me crazy. He refuses to let her write in her diary despite its possible therapeutic element; an instance that reminded me of a likely grade-school punishment. By treating his wife as a child, I feel that John greatly contributed to the recession of his wife's mental state. It is evident that John could have very possibly contributed to the downfall of his poor wife. I am not saying that he is entirely at fault here, but it is interesting to see that he may have in fact helped his wife fall deeper into the abyss of insanity.