2. I sometimes fancy that in my condition if I had less opposition
and more society and stimulus—but John says the very worst thing I can do is
think about my condition, and I confess it always makes me feel bad. So I
will let it alone and talk about the house.
This section appears near the beginning of the story, and it helps
characterize both the narrator’s dilemma and the narrator herself. Notably,
the narrator interrupts her own train of thought by recalling John’s
instructions. Gilman shows how the narrator has internalized her husband’s
authority to the point that she practically hears his voice in her head,
telling her what to think. Even so, she cannot help but feel the way she
does, and so the move she makes at the end—focusing on the house instead of
her situation—marks the beginning of her slide into obsession and madness.
This mental struggle, this desperate attempt not to think
about her unhappiness, makes her project her feelings onto her surroundings,
especially the wallpaper, which becomes a symbolic image of “her condition.”
The play on words here is typical of Gilman’s consistent use of irony
throughout the story. She feels bad whenever she thinks about her
“condition,” that is, about both her depression and her condition in general
within her oppressive marriage.