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She studies the incomprehensible pattern in the wallpaper, determined to make sense of it.
This creeping woman also gives a clue about why the first pattern is so troubling and ugly.
It seems to be peppered with distorted heads with bulging eyes—the heads of other creeping women who were strangled by the pattern when they tried to escape it.
Its "windows are barred for little children," showing again that she is being treated as a child, and also that she is like a prisoner.
John dismisses anything that hints of emotion or irrationality—what he calls "fancy." For instance, when the narrator says that the wallpaper in her bedroom disturbs her, he informs her that she is letting the wallpaper "get the better of her" and thus refuses to remove it.
Though the narrator studies and studies the pattern in the wallpaper, it never makes any sense to her.
Similarly, no matter how hard she tries to recover, the terms of her recovery—embracing her domestic role—never make any sense to her, either.
The first pattern of the wallpaper can be seen as the societal expectations that hold women like the narrator captive.
The narrator's recovery will be measured by how cheerfully she resumes her domestic duties as wife and mother, and her desire to do anything else—like write—is seen to interfere with that recovery.
The woman is discouraged from doing anything intellectual even though she believes some "excitement and change" would do her good. And she is allowed very little company—certainly not from the "stimulating" people she most wishes to see.
His actions are couched in concern for her, a position that she initially seems to believe herself.