John is the husband of the narrator in “The Yellow Wallpaper.” He is a physician and seems to be a very kind and caring man. However, he also appears to be quite controlling and overbearing. For example, he doesn’t allow his wife to work or even leave her room, insisting that she rest in order to recover from her “nervous condition.” He also doesn’t believe her when she says she’s feeling better and insists on keeping her locked up. This ultimately leads to the deterioration of the narrator’s mental state.
The typical Victorian husband, according to the text, is John. He is a domineering, hard-nosed head of the household. He is a “high-standing” physician. He is very controlling and expects his wife to obey his commands, which was quite common in the nineteenth century. He’s a doctor but just knows about bodily illnesses. He has no understanding of mental disorders, especially as they pertain to women.
The narrator is not happy with this situation because she feels that he should be more understanding.
John is very much a man of his time and is extremely patriarchal. He does not understand his wife’s mental illness and instead sees it as a physical problem that can be cured with rest and relaxation. He is very dismissive of her feelings and experiences, telling her that she is just imagining things. This lack of understanding only serves to further isolate the narrator and make her feel even more trapped.
While John may not be the most sympathetic character, it is important to remember that he is a product of his time. Mental illness was not well understood in the Victorian era and so he is not to blame for his lack of understanding. Instead, we can see him as a victim of the times in which he lived.
He tells his wife that she must be treated in a certain manner, and he believes she requires a lot of rest and quiet. He forbids her from expressing herself or seeing anybody. It appears to us that this is more about him attempting to isolate her away than it is for her own protection. He has no regard for how she feels, dismisses it as anxious sadness or hysteria, and offers no comfort when she talks about how badly he’s treating her.
When she does start to act out, he puts her in a nursery and locks the door. The final straw is when he rips the wallpaper off the wall because she is so obsessed with it. This action shows that he doesn’t understand her at all and that he is unable to help her. In the end, his actions drive her insane and she kills him.
From the beginning of the story, we see that John is a very controlling husband. He tells his wife what she can and cannot do, and he doesn’t listen to her when she tries to explain how she feels. He is unempathetic and dismissive of her feelings, which leads to her feeling trapped and alone. In the end, his actions cause her to snap and she kills him. While we may not agree with everything he does, we can understand why he acts the way he does.
“John is extremely practical,” wrote Menard. “He has no tolerance for faith and an overt hatred for superstition, and he openly laughs at any mention of things that can’t be felt or seen or quantified.”
He is also a physician who doesn’t believe in his own profession:
“John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage.” (Gilman 6)
And he is distant and unsympathetic towards his wife:
“I sometimes fancy that in my condition if I had less opposition and more society and stimulation-but John says the very worst thing I can do is think about my condition, and I confess it always makes me feel bad.” (Gilman 11)
Overall, John seems to be a very rational and logical man who does not understand the inner workings of the human mind, which ultimately leads to him dismissing his wife’s mental illness.
Despite his devotion to his wife, he has a distinct way with her. He treats her, however, as a juvenile or a pet, and she is to him as delicate as glass: “He embraced me in his arms and called me a blessed little goose.”
John is extremely controlling, not only of his wife but also of the situation and environment around him. He is a typical “patriarchal” figure who believes that he knows what is best for everyone and everything. His need to be in control stems from his own feelings of insecurity and anxiety, which are exacerbated by the fact that his wife is unwell.
He is a very logical thinker and has difficulty understanding his wife’s emotional needs. He sees her illness as something that can be cured with rest and relaxation, rather than acknowledging the deep-seated psychological issues that are at the root of her condition.
Although John means well, his lack of understanding and empathy ultimately contribute to his wife’s downward spiral. By denying her feelings and experiences, he inadvertently gaslights her and exacerbates her mental breakdown.
John is rather a chilly character who lacks empathy or even the desire to understand his wife’s illness. He considers it an affliction rather than a sickness, and believes she should pull herself together. When she suggests her body is healthy but not her mind, he gives her “a stern reproachful look” and dismisses it as “false and foolish fancy.”
The first time she sees the wallpaper it is John who dismisses it as “ugly enough” but not worth paying attention to. He does not want her to think about it or pay any attention to it. The fact that he has rented the house because of its quiet and seclusion only serves to reinforce his own view that she should just be left alone to “get well”. The reader gets the sense that John does not really want his wife to get better as her getting better would mean a change in the status quo and he seems content with things as they are.
John is also shown to be a bit of a control freak. He wants everything done his way and on his schedule. When she first mentions the wallpaper to him he immediately makes an appointment with her doctor and arranges for a nurse to come and stay with her.
He does not listen to her when she says she does not need a nurse and that she would rather have her sister come to stay. He also does not listen to her when she says she does not want to go away for the summer. He has already made the arrangements and expects her to just go along with it.
When John finally realizes that his wife is truly ill and not just going through a phase he still tries to control the situation. He will not let her out of the room and instead locks her in. He does this because he believes it is what is best for her. He wants her to get better but does not want to deal with the reality of her illness.
In the end, John is shown to be a selfish and self-centered character who is more concerned with what he wants and what he thinks is best for his wife rather than what she wants or needs. He is unwilling to listen to her or even try to understand her illness. The only time he shows any real concern for her is when she tries to escaping and he has to physically stop her. Even then, it seems more like he is doing it to protect himself from her than because he actually cares about her.