Gilman wrote "The Yellow Wall-Paper" to reveal the constraints which society forced upon women during the late nineteenth century. This realistic short story portrays a woman's inability to freely and independently express herself, due to the domestic and social standards women were supposed to uphold at this time. These standards, which the male dominant society stressed to be idealistic of women, were oppressive and cruel. Gilman presents the woman, who is suffering from Post-Pardum Syndrome, as being belittled throughout the story by her domineering husband, the all-knowing physician. "The Yellow Wall-Paper" has a common theme of a child-like reference, which the husband constantly exploits on his wife. He uses it so much that she takes on the characteristics of a child. The imprisoned environment the narrator is forced to live in is also a prevalent theme, symbolizing how the narrator feels trapped inside herself and inside the yellow wallpaper because John implements complete control over her and enforces her not to think or write. .
The inferior and submissive attitude the narrator possesses is shown in the first few paragraphs of the story. She first introduces "ordinary people like John and myself," putting herself behind John, showing how subservient she is to her husband. The Narrator then shows how compliant she is to the cultural and social expectations, by saying she disagrees with the treatment from her husband and brother, but then repeats "but what is one to do?" (Page 833) By saying this she is admitting that there is nothing she can do to get better, because John believes there is nothing wrong with her. The narrator knows what she must do to get better, but she isn't allowed to voice her opinion because her husband has already convinced all friends and relatives that there is nothing wrong with her other than "hysteria" (Page 833) .
By condemning his wife, John adds to the child like status his wife takes on.