The Yellow Wallpaper: Entry 4
An indeterminate amount of time has passed. With her strength ebbing, the Narrator spends at least half her time in bed. John has added cod liver oil, tonics, ale, wine and rare meat to her diet. After an earnest, reasonable talk with John he again refuses to let her go visit Cousin Henry and Julia. The Narrator was reduced to tears. Her husband carried her upstairs, put her to bed and read aloud until she was calm. Then he told her that she is everything to him and she must get well by using her intellect to overcome her silly fancies.
In the depths of her depression, the Narrator is comforted by the realization that if she and John had taken a room downstairs, as she had originally wished, the baby would have stayed in the nursery with the wallpaper. The Narrator is convinced that she can stand the wallpaper much better than an impressionable baby.
The Narrator never mentions the wallpaper to Jennie, Mary or John anymore because she is “too wise” but she has seen things in it that nobody else knows about. Furthermore, she states that nobody ever will know about these things. The shapes behind the pattern have become clearer every day and she now sees they are the same image of a woman creeping around behind the pattern. The Narrator wishes that her husband would take her away from the house. After watching the moonlight creep across the wallpaper until she felt “creepy”, the Narrator watches the crouching figure until she is sure the wallpaper is moving. She leaves her bed to touch it, and hears John say: “What is it, little girl?” She implores him to take her away from the house. He calmly reasons that they will leave in three weeks anyway and the work being done to their own home is not yet finished. He explains that, as a doctor, he would take her away immediately if she was in any danger but expresses his belief that she is getting better because her appetite and color have improved. She counters that she may eat more when he is around but she eats less when he is away and he hugs her and says: “Bless her little heart…she shall be as sick as she pleases!” She asks again if he will take her away and he says that she is improving to which she replies: “Better in body perhaps”. This alarms her husband who becomes very serious and reproachful and entreats her to never entertain the notion that her sanity is any way compromised; he calls it a “false and foolish fancy.” Afterward, the Narrator lies awake examining the pattern to see which part of it is in motion. She explains that the pattern is like a bad dream. By daylight it is grotesque and reminiscent of toadstools. The random twists and twirls are maddening to try and follow; the crouching woman in the sub-pattern is still and difficult to discern. By moonlight, however, the pattern assumes the characteristics of bars and the woman behind the pattern becomes perfectly clear. The pattern now occupies all of the Narrator’s thoughts and she spends most of her waking hours studying it. This is made easier by her husband’s insistence that she lay down as after meals. She obliges but spends the time examining the pattern instead of sleeping.
The Narrator is becoming a little afraid of her husband and she wonders if the wallpaper is to blame. Even Jennie seems suspicious. She has caught both of them looking at the wallpaper and on one occasion found Jenny touching it. Alarmed, the Narrator restrained her anger and asked what he sister-in-law was doing. Startled, Jennie explained that the paper stained their clothes and she wished that the Narrator and John would be more careful. The Narrator, however, does not believe this excuse and determines that nobody else shall ever discover the secrets of the pattern.
Analysis – Entry Four
The narrator has outwardly been reduced completely to a child in her husband’s care as evidenced by his ability to reduce her to tears and then soothe her by carrying her upstairs and reading to her while she recovers in bed. Later, he calls her “little girl” and then refuses another request to depart the house. Though her rational mind still wishes to flee the house, her imagination is becoming increasingly reliant upon the wallpaper for its sustenance. Horrifyingly, she knows that she is being driven insane but can do nothing to prevent it. Like the woman (sometimes women) she sees trapped in the wallpaper, she is increasingly a prisoner of her own environment. The wallpaper, now the firm ally of her imagination, seems to be the only thing that keeps her from becoming completely dependent and childlike since, as the Narrator observes, a child would not be able to withstand its influence. In this manner, the power of her imagination and the power of the wallpaper are fused in opposition to her husband’s attempt to infantilize her. To further her defense she begins to forsake the ugly clarity of the daylight for the blurred reality of moonlight.
Like her imagination, the Narrator’s paranoia and jealously in regards to the wallpaper also asserts itself over the course of this entry – beginning with her baby (it could not stand the wallpaper) and continuing through to Jennie and John, both of whom come under suspicion for the attention the wallpaper.