The Yellow Wallpaper: Entry 2
It is two weeks later. The Narrator, now situated in the nursery, explains that she has not felt like writing since the first day. Her husband’s cases, however, keep him away most days and some nights so she is free to write whenever she has the strength. She confesses that her nervous condition is very depressing and it is difficult to find the energy to write. She believes her husband is unaware of the extent of her suffering since she has no diagnosable malady. Though her intention was to be a supportive, comforting wife she regrets that she has become a burden to her husband so soon in their marriage. Her one source of comfort is that Mary, the nanny, is good with the baby. The Narrator thinks it is a “dear” baby but her nerves will not allow her to be with it. John, on the other hand, is confident and laughs when his wife asks that they repaper the upstairs room. At first he acquiesces but then decides that it would be counterproductive if he entertained his wife’s fanciful notions. When she requests that they move to one of the rooms downstairs he calls her a “blessed little goose” and offers to move them to the cellar and have it painted if that would please her. She relents and admits to herself that she is fond of the upstairs room’s big windows and sunlight.
She describes the views afforded by the various windows: from one is a view of the garden; from another window she can see the bay and secluded path that runs down to the estate’s modest, private dock. The Narrator imagines she sees people walking along the path but her husband warns her not to give into such fancies and counsels his wife to overcome her imagination with reason. Suppressing her imagination is exhausting. The Narrator believes that if she had the energy and time to write it would help to clear away all her imaginings. Desiring someone to discuss her writing, the Narrator hopes for a visit from her stimulating Cousin Henry and Julia but her husband inveighs against the idea. He says he would sooner put fireworks in her pillowcase.
The Narrator begins to imagine that the wallpaper is slowing her recovery. She again ponders the riotous, unsightly madness of the pattern and notes that one of the repeating sections looks like a broken neck with two upside-down, oversized eyes attached. She is equally angered by the “impertinence” of the pattern and amazed by its emotional capacity. Remembering the comforting attributes of the solid furniture in her childhood home, she contrasts the mismatched furnishings of her present surroundings. She imagines that the children who previously occupied the space must have hated it as well since the plaster is gouged in places and the floor is dug out and scratched in spots. The bed is large, heavy and old but adequate.
The Narrator quickly notes that John’s sister Jennie is coming. She describes Jennie as a simple soul, perfectly content with housekeeping and very careful of her sister-in-law. The Narrator thinks that Jennie believes that her sister-in-law’s writing is the cause of all her ills. Thankfully, the Narrator can keep a watch for Jennie through the windows. Before concluding, the Narrator notes that she has a detected a sub-pattern in the wallpaper that is visible only in certain lights and never clearly. When the sun is just right, however, she can see a formless figure crouching behind the pattern.
She hears Jennie coming up the stairs and concludes the entry.
Analysis – Entry Two
Despite his good intentions, John simultaneously circumscribes his wife’s outer and inner worlds. He refuses her repeated requests to relocate their bedroom because he reasons that entertaining her “fancies” would do more harm than good. Lacking control over her external environment, the Narrator tries to appreciate the beauty of the views from her room but when her imagination begins to assert itself – in the guise of imagined figures walking in the distance – John advises her to quash it going so far as to restrict her interaction with any persons (such as cousin Henry and Julia) who may excite it. The Narrator’s brief reminiscence of her childhood not only serves to highlight the disorientation of her current surroundings it asserts the overwhelming role her imagination has played in her life. Thus, her husband’s insistence that she smother her imagination takes on the aspect of an insurmountable task as it entails the negation of everything she considers her self. As a result, she becomes increasingly lethargic and more dependent on her journal as an outlet.
The Narrator’s new baby, who she loves but cannot be near without suffering a nervous attack, underscores her own helplessness. In many ways, the Narrator is as helpless and as cared-for as the baby who is completely cared for by Mary the nanny. John simultaneously infantilizes his wife, calling her his “blessed little goose” while insisting that she view the world with cold, clear logic. The impossibility of being both a cared-for child and empowered adult drives her back to her secret journal. At this point she still feels that the wallpaper is a negative influence on her recovery but begins to use it as a basis for self-identification as she does with the children she imagines having previously occupied with the nursery.
Finally, we meet Jennie, the Narrator’s sister-in-law whose extreme domesticity firmly contrasts her with the Narrator and further highlights the latter’s failings in that capacity. The introduction of Jennie also occasions the first hint of suspicion, bordering on paranoia, on the Narrator’s part and is juxtaposed with the emergence of the sub-pattern in the wall paper. The Narrator’s decent into her imagination, the rejection of her husband’s worldview and submission to her nervous condition has begun in earnest.