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The Yellow Wallpaper

Infantilization

Quotes Infantilization
Then he took me in his arms and called me a blessed little goose, and said he would go down cellar, if I wished, and have it white-washed into the bargain.

The narrator reveals John’s response after she complains about having to sleep in the room with the yellow wallpaper. His response may seem sympathetic, if condescending, but his exaggeration of what she requests—she just wants to sleep in a lower-level room—reveals that he never takes her request seriously. In fact, John’s response reveals he doesn’t take her feelings seriously, either. Readers discover that he neither white-washes the cellar nor considers allowing the narrator to sleep in a different room. John intends his words to soothe her in the moment until she forgets the matter—as one would expect of a small child.

I got up softly and went to feel and see if the paper didmove, and when I came back John was awake. “What is it, little girl?” he said. “Don’t go walking about like that—you’ll get cold.”

John addresses his wife as a little girl—someone to be protected, coddled, and told how to behave, especially what not to do. The narrator knows not to tell John her suspicions about the wallpaper—at this point in her illness, she understands he would scoff at her ideas—but she does request that they shorten their summer stay at the house. He not only refuses, but insists that she is getting better even if she doesn’t see her progress. In his view, she literally does not know her own mind.

“Bless her little heart!” said he with a big hug, “she shall be as sick as she pleases! But now let’s improve the shining hours by going to sleep, and talk about it in the morning!”

The narrator has just insisted that, contrary to John’s beliefs, her illness worsens. Instead of taking her concerns seriously, he condescends to her by belittling her perspective. His words, however, make clear that he believes she experiences this illness by choice—and therefore she is not truly ill at all. John intends, for the moment, to coddle the narrator in order to get her to go back to sleep, like one would a small child.