Narrator: It is morning on April 20th in the year 1921. Mrs Jones is cleaning in the kitchen. She wears a knee-length dress with her hair pinned up under a hat, as if preparing to go out. Mr Jones enters in a drowsy state. Mr Jones: Good morning, Mary. Mrs Jones: Good morning, Herbert. Mr: Have you made breakfast yet, my dear? Narrator: She stops. Mrs: Oh, I knew I’d forgotten something! I just started cleaning the counters and I forgot about your food. Mr: (firmly) Well, why don’t you see to it before you finish that, I’m famished. Mrs: Actually, Herb, I was thinking I would visit my Aunt Martha today, see how her baby’s doing. It’s her fifth, you knowMr: Yes, I remember. Mrs: So I’ll visit her, and since you don’t have work today, do you think you’ll be able to find breakfast? Mr: (shakes head) I’d rather you didn’t go. I “cannot possibly leave town” (Gilman 773) on my day off, and I don’t want you driving yourself. You’re not used to the car, dear, you’d crash it. Mrs: (nervously looks down) I’ve driven it fine before, and I’d really like to see MarthaMr: No, Mary, and especially not dressed like that. You look like one of those girls that’s going out on the town. Mrs: (quivers) I thought you liked how I looked when I dress like this. Mr: Of course, but only when we’re at home, Mary; that’s not decent for woman to dress like that out in public, is it? Mrs: I guess not. (pauses to regain composure) Shall I cook breakfast then? Mr: I would love that. And later, if you can find the time, could you iron that white shirt of mine? I can’t seem to get the wrinkles out. Mrs: Yes, dear.
of May, 1922
$ank y% for w&ting me wi! news of y%r enga'ment. It ( a blessing to hear
I am sad to repo+ my ,ate of mind has not improved. Lately I have been so
of y%r ha)iness in love, and I know y% will lead a joyful life wi! y%r John Smi!. restless I cannot ,and it; %r rooms have gro- too small and I pace when I am not
cooking or cleaning. I feel as if I am being con,rained to suﬀer wi!in my o- h%se!
Herbe+ has ,a+ed to notic/ Yesterday he came home a0er a business t&p, and
seeing I was upset, asked what was 1 ma2er. I 3dn’t want to upset him, so I t&ed to assure him I was s%nd of mind. But I had been so lonely while he was away, and so
confined, I ,a+ed sobbing %t l%d!
I love my husband, Be!, truly I do, but sometimes I wonder if 1 man knows me
at all. He t&ed to convince me I was overworked, tired, and at &sk of “temporary
nerv%s depression [or a]...hy,e&cal tendency” (Gilman 766), and w%ldn’t hear of
me saying o!erw(/ Herb said if I “don’t pick up...he 5all send me to [a doctor] in
!e fall” (Gilman 766), because hy,e&a in common in women !ese days.
I 3sagree wi! 1 doctor’s ideas; I !ink excitement and chan' w%ld help me
(Gilman 768), but I tru, Herbe+. I do want to feel be2er, so I’ll l(ten to 1 doctors’ advic/
I will w&te wi! more news of my con3tion, and I do hope y% 5all tell me more
Y%r loving c%sin, Mary
Office of Doctor Brown 2nd Street, Maysville
Mrs. Herbert Jones Case File Notes June 3, 1922 Patient Mrs. Jones has been suffering symptoms of hysteria for several weeks. Mr. Jones has told me she tends to overexert herself when doing housework during the day, and refuses to rest. Mrs. Jones’ symptoms of “weakness and unstable emotionality” are most likely due to being “long nervously ill” (Ehrenreich and English 782). I believe she would benefit from the general treatment given to sufferers of female hysteria, including total bed rest and possibly isolation to avoid overstimulation. I will meet with Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Jones tomorrow.
June 4, 1922 Met with patient today. She seems in the worst throes of the hysteria I have yet seen. Mrs. Jones was uncooperative with her husband and expressed her displeasure at being treated, though I told her I could cure her. I asked when she had contracted hysteria, and Mrs. Jones responded that she had not, and was only bored. I told her that she was indeed suffering from many ills which required extensive treatment. As I reassured the patient that I was an expert on weaknesses of the female system, she seemed to calm. However Mrs. Jones remained recalcitrant throughout the appointment. I discussed with Mr. Herbert Jones the nature of his wife’s treatment. I told him her condition was dire and meant that she would need to come back for a while. He agreed to whatever care I saw fit to provide.
June 5, 1922 After conversing with Mrs. Herbert Jones, I have realized that overcoming the notion that she needs more work must be done first. She will not agree with the body of research completed on hysteria and insists she can cure herself. The fact that Mrs. Jones was not “submissive [or] obedient to...orders” of her husband indicates “her tendency to morally warp” (Ehrenreich and English 782) under her severe condition. If she can be cut off from the outside influences which are twisting her delicate spirit, we may erase her hysteria. Mrs. Jones will require absolutely no house chores, frequent rest, and no mental stimulation of any sort to calm her fragile nerves. If her grave case of hysteria worsens, she may become insane. The only course of action after a complete nervous breakdown would be to house Mrs. Jones in an insane asylum to prevent harm to herself and others.
August 10, 1922 (Afternoon) Don’t anybody read this if your name isn’t Mary Jones, because this is MY journal. Especially don’t let Herb read it, he would take it away and make me be alone. He just wants me to live inside and be trapped and cleaning, but it WON’T WORK! I will not stand his will persistently bending mine (Chopin 785) much longer. He can take my freedom (I have a plan to fix that) but “I must say what I feel and think in some way” (Gilman 772). I write these poems to rebel! Oh-he’s coming up the stairs, I have to hide thisAugust 10, 1922 (Evening) I need to do something about Herbert. He’s the one making me insane, not this “hysteria”! I felt so angry he stopped me from writing earlier I wrote some poetry: Kitchen in our home Always cooking, cleaning here Can’t leave, a prison I know some families Wives are drowning in children Their dreams are smothered My husband, Herbert Loving, but he won’t listen I am not that weak Here I am not free Hunched over; obedient Must break from my bonds The iron is hot It smooths wrinkles from the clothes, But can it help me? I think this gave me an idea! And Herbert says the writing is bad for me… I know he’s wrong, and I’ll prove it to him in a few days. I know what I need to do now to release myself from this.
Central City Police Department Police Report-17th of August, 1922 Occurred 11:47 p.m. Civilian contacted police after hearing loud arguments, screaming, and crashing sounds from outside a home; he did not investigate. Upon arrival, no one answered the door, and policemen forced entry on suspicion of assault. Furniture and belongings were strewn everywhere. Blood was seen on the floor and clattering could be heard coming from the kitchen. The men entered the kitchen and saw a man-white, tall, brown haired, around 40-lying dead on the floor with multiple wounds to the face and head. A woman, whom the officers thought to be his wife, was circling her wounded husband clutching a bloody clothing iron above her head. She appeared crazed and upon seeing the men, shrieked, “Now I am free… He wanted me to stay stuck in here, he wanted me to keep house forever, but I got him… ‘Free! Body and soul free’(Chopin 785)!” Policemen attempted to apprehend the woman but she was resistant. They were forced to knock her unconscious to subdue and arrest her. Upon further investigation, the wife and husband were found arguing when, in a fit of hysteria, the woman attacked. The Jones, had had a history of emotional instability and had a breakdown due to failed medical treatment of her condition. placed in a center for the criminally insane.
to have been wife, Mary nervous She will be