Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell Essay examples

Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell Essay examples

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In 1877, Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell, a well known American physician, from Philadelphia,

Pennsylvania, wrote describing what he called his “rest cure”. Dr. Mitchell says "I do not permit the

patient to sit up or to sew or write or read. The only action allowed is that needed to clean the teeth."

(Mitchell) This was the treatment Dr. Mitchell and other physicians of the time, prescribed to deal with

emotional disorders such as treating hysteria, or Neurasthenia, in female patients.

So many nervous people are worried with indecision, with inability to make up their minds to

the simplest actions, that to have the responsibility of choice taken away greatly lessens their

burdens. It lessens, too, the burdens which may be placed upon them by outside action if they

can refuse this or that because they are under orders as to hours. (Mitchell)

The “rest cure” applied to women of the upper classes who were simply exhausted by the chores of

raising children, taking care of households with many members, or who were suffering postpartum

depression after child birth. It was believed in the period that a woman’s uterus, containing medical

LaChance 2

problems, led to emotional and physical complaints. This treatment gained great popularity in the 19th

century, treating women with mental illnesses, later to be termed as anxiety or forms of depression. It is

the women of the upper classes of the culture that are increasingly diagnosed with neurasthenia. As the

period comes to a close, more and more physicians and psychiatrists will begin to point out the flaw in

a theory that disproportionately favors the over-diagnosis of upper-class women.

Neurasthenia fell out of favor as a diagnosis in the ...


... middle of paper ...


...ver her and absorb her. She spends

countless hours and days analyzing the yellow wallpaper. She sees its every twist, turn, pattern, and

flaw. “There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me, or ever will.” (Gilman 313) She

identifies with an imaginary woman she sees trapped within the walls, and she identifies with that

woman. The woman she sees, in the paper, is able to escape her life, and reality, by hiding in the

wallpaper, and this is where the narrator realizes she needs to do the same for herself. After the narrator

becomes free, or in her mind, becomes the creeping woman in the paper, she says, “I suppose I shall

have to get back behind the pattern when it comes night, and that is hard!”(Gilman 436). Since the

narrator had seen the pattern as bars with the female figure behind them, perhaps this statement may

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