A Woman's Struggle Captured in The Yellow Wallpaper

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A Woman's Struggle Captured in The Yellow Wallpaper

Pregnancy and childbirth are very emotional times in a woman's life and many

women suffer from the "baby blues." The innocent nickname for postpartum

depression is deceptive because it down plays the severity of this condition.

Although she was not formally diagnosed with postpartum depression, Charlotte

Perkins Gilman (1860-1935) developed a severe depression after the birth of

her only child (Kennedy et. al. 424). Unfortunately, she was treated by Dr. S.

Weir Mitchell, who forbade her to write and prescribed only bed rest and quiet

for recovery (Kennedy et al. 424). Her condition only worsened and

ultimately resulted in divorce (Kennedy and Gioia 424). Gilman's literary

indictment of Dr. Mitchell's ineffective treatment came to life in the story

"The Yellow Wallpaper." On the surface, this gothic tale seems only to relate

one woman's struggle with mental illness, but because Guilman was a prominent

feminist and social thinker she incorporated themes of women's rights and the

poor relationships between husbands and wives (Kennedy and Gioia 424).

Guilman cleverly manipulates the setting to support her themes and set the eerie


Upon first reading "The Yellow Wallpaper," the reader may see the relationship

between the narrator and her husband John as caring, but with examination one

will find that the narrator is repeatedly belittled and demeaned by her

husband. On first arriving at the vacation home John chooses the old attic

nursery against his wife's wishes and laughs at her when she complains about

the wallpaper (Kennedy et al. 424,425). In Charlotte Bronte's novel }{plain

ul J...

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treatments of Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, but contains much more than one expects.

The short story not only studies the complications within a marital

relationship, it examines a woman's struggle with mental illness and the

hardships of inequality between the sexes. The setting plays an important role

to strengthen the themes and also makes the reader question the innocence and

simplicity of what is related to him.

Works Cited

Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. New York: Signet Classic, 1960

Kennedy, X.J. and Dan Gioia. Literature: an Introduction to Fiction, poetry, and Drama.

Sixth Edition. New York: Harper Collins College Publishers Inc., 1995.

Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Vol. 9. Detroit: Gale Research Inc.,

1983. Hodges, Elaine R. Short Story Criticism}. Vol. 13. Detroit: Gale

Research Inc., 1993.
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