I feel that the historical context, or time era, of this story is an important factor in understanding this piece. This story was written in 1899, a time where women were merely housewives and nothing more.
Knowing this, we can begin to interpret why what actions were taken. For instance, John's sister, not yet married, lives with him and his mentally challenged wife because she has no man in her life and John can take care of her. She must in return take care of his wife and the estate while he is working. This shows that the women were still dependent upon men, in almost any aspect.
Knowing that the women of this era were dependent upon their man shows why she never decided to go out and see a doctor. She did what her husband wanted her to do because that was the only way she knew how.
The woman never spoke back to her husband even when she felt he was wrong and didn't understand what she needed. She knew that her husband loved and cared for her and she was content with that.
This piece would not cohere to a time era like we live in today and is dependent on the fact that this story took place around the turn of the twentieth century. This paper makes a point about the dangers of women's dependence on male interpretations of their needs.