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supervision. She describes Jenny as, “Such a dear girl as she is, and so careful of me! I must not let her find me writing.” The narrator has very strong opinions about Jenny’s pride and zeal of being the ideal woman of the times and says that Jenny “is a perfect and enthusiastic housekeeper, and hopes for no better profession. [The narrator] verily believes [Jenny] thinks it
4is the writing which made [makes her] sick!” Certainly, Jenny represents the typical women of the times and is most likely a member in good standing of the “Cult of Domesticity” that believes “women were designed exclusively” to be wives and mothers and “expected to cultivatepiety, purity, submissiveness, and domesticity” and their “domain of influence, [is] confined completely to the home” (MacKethan 1). The narrator is also expressing that Jenny cannot possibly understand that her writing is an outlet for her that helps her express herself and contributes to her mental health. Taking away her writing is like taking away the air that she breathes; he mind needs it to survive. Indeed, Jenny’s thoughts and actions are domestic in natureand she considers all other pursuits as frivolous and distracting from the only purpose she is meant to have, to serve the family. It is clear that not only is the narrator oppressed by male society but by the women as well. It is unfortunate that Jenny is unable to understand the narrator, because perhaps a female friend the narrator could confide in would provide her just enough recognition as an individual to sustain her sense of self. Women readers can see Jenny in themselves or in other women in their lives, and begin to understand how women are contributing to their own oppression, by glorifying their only choice in life into something noble,rather than just one choice they should have among many. This is leading them to formulate the idea that to begin to be heard and respected they must start treating themselves and each other with the same respect they are seeking from male society. The narrator is suffocating emotionallyby the heavy oppression of her husband and Jenny, and she desperately feels the need to express herself, but her only outlet, her writing, is denied to her and her mental frustration contributes to the progression of her illness.Her doctor has ordered complete rest for the narrator if she is to have any hope of recovery. The prescribed ‘rest cure’ actually drags her into a deeper depression and signs of
5psychosis begin to surface even though John feels she is improving.Moving into a rented, run-down, isolated estate for the summer is John’s idea of helping his wife rest. Right away the narrator describes how the estate is “quite alone, standing well back from the road [and] there arehedges and walls and gates that lock” (Gilman 479). This summer estate is actually being described as an inescapable fortress, giving the clear indication that the narrator is a prisoner.