Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s powerful story, “The Yellow Wallpaper”, is about a woman who was driven to madness by her depression and controlling husband. The story is told by the wife, in first person, and is based on Gilman’s own life experience. Gilman suffered from post-partum depression after her daughter was born and was prescribed the “resting cure” which is resting and isolation. In the story, the narrator’s husband puts her in isolation because he believes that will cure her of her depression and breakdowns. He won’t let her do anything, so she turns to writing in her secret journal to try and cure her depression. Since she has nothing to do all day, she turns her attention to the yellow wallpaper in the room. She becomes obsessed with it and begins to see a woman trapped inside the pattern. The wallpaper dominates the narrator’s imagination and she becomes possessed and secretive about hiding her obsession with it. The narrator suspects the her husband and sister are aware of her obsession so she starts to destroy the wallpaper and goes into a frenzy trying to free the caged woman in the pattern of the wallpaper. The narrator becomes insane, thinking that she also came out of the wallpaper, and creeps around the room, and when her husband checks on her, he faints because of what she has become, and she continues to creep around the room, stepping over body.
Author Charlotte Gilman in “The Yellow Wallpaper” gives a personal short story about mental health care during her time. This account is personal, as the character in the story has experiences close to what author Gilman had during her period of receiving the ‘resting cure’ (Gilman). While many themes are described in the short story, the theme of passive health-care is especially prominent. The story delves into particular detail with the administration and effects of the resting cure in regards to the main character’s mental state. This paper will analyze the evidence given by “The Yellow Wallpaper” that the resting cure is not effective, give reasons why it may be due to the main characters need for a creative outlet, and examine the actual
Described as an “autobiographical account fictionalized in the first person,” Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” chronicles the narrator as she is brought to a country house and put on rest cure, instructed by her physician husband to live in a room with yellow wallpaper (“The Yellow Wallpaper”). Throughout her stay there, the narrator appears to develop a sort of hysteria and falls into a deeper depression than when she arrived.
Back in the 19th and early 20th centuries, not much was known about how to treat mental illnesses. At the time, many doctors felt that an appropriate way to handle such a thing was something known as the “resting cure,” which called for doing little more than “resting” by oneself. In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s epistolary short story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the main speaker writes of her reclusive treatment for her own mental illness. Throughout the passage, Gilman criticizes the practice of the resting cure by showing the harmful effects of isolation and the reduction of a person to an infantile state.
The narrator, a new mother, is revoked of her freedom to live a free life and denied the fact that she is “sick”, perhaps with postpartum depression, by her husband, a physician, who believes whatever sorrows she is feeling now will pass over soon. The problematic part of this narrative is that this woman is not only kept isolated in a room she wishes to have nothing to do with, but her creative expression is revoked by her husband as we can see when she writes: “there comes John, and I must put this away, - he hates to have me write a word (Gilman,
There is no one to listen to her or care for her ‘personal’ opinions. Her husband cares for her, in a doctor’s fashion, but her doesn’t listen to her (Rao, 39). Dealing with a mentally ill patient can be difficult, however, it’s extremely inappropriate for her husband to be her doctor when he has a much larger job to fulfill. He solely treats his wife as a patient telling her only what could benefit her mental sickness rather than providing her with the companionship and support she desperately needs. If her husband would have communicated with her on a personal level, her insanity episode could have been prevented. Instead of telling her everything she needed he should’ve been there to listen and hear her out. Instead she had to seek an alternate audience, being her journal in which he then forbids her to do. All of this leads to the woman having nobody to speak or express emotion to. All of her deep and insane thoughts now fluttered through her head like bats in the Crystal Cave.
Before going into why I think the narrator has postpartum depression, I would like to discuss what it is. Postpartum depression is, " a complex mix of physical, emotional and behavioral changes that occur in a mother after giving birth"("WebMD"). The causes of this illness can be hereditary and can be changes in most women's hormones. Most mothers who experience postpartum depression love their children but feel that they won't be good at mothering. (HealthyMinds.org). An example of this in the story is when the narrator is discussing what little she can do and says, "It is fortunate Mary is so good with the baby. Such a dear baby! And yet I cannot be with him, it makes me so nervous." (Gillman 105) We see from this quote that the narrator doubts her ability to take care of her baby.
Previously, the narrator has intimated, “She had all her life long been accustomed to harbor thoughts and emotions which never voiced themselves. They had never taken the form of struggles. They belonged to her and were her own.” Her thoughts and emotions engulf her, but she does not “struggle” with them. They “belonged to her and were her own.” She does not have to share them with anyone; conversely, she must share her life and her money with her husband and children and with the many social organizations and functions her role demands.
In everyday day life we go through changes and sometimes we even break down to the point we do not know what to do with ourselves, but in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story” The Yellow Wallpaper” the narrator is an obsessive person. The story focuses on a woman who is going through postpartum depression and has had a nervous breakdown. Her husband John moves her into a home where he wants her to rest in isolation to recover from her disorder. Throughout her time in the room the narrator discovers new things and finally understands life.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s "The Yellow Wall-Paper," does more than just tell the story of a woman who suffers at the hands of 19th century quack medicine. Gilman created a protagonist with real emotions and a real psych that can be examined and analyzed in the context of modern psychology. In fact, to understand the psychology of the unnamed protagonist is to be well on the way to understanding the story itself. "The Yellow Wall-Paper," written in first-person narrative, charts the psychological state of the protagonist as she slowly deteriorates into schizophrenia (a disintegration of the personality).
When first reading the gothic feminist tale, “The Yellow Wallpaper” written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, one might assume this is a short story about a women trying to save her sanity while undergoing treatment for postpartum depression. Gilman herself had suffered post-natal depression and was encouraged to undergo the “rest cure” to cure her hysteria. The treatment prescribed to Gilman resulted in her having a very similar experience as the narrator in the short story. The “perfect rest” (648), which consisted of forced bed rest and isolation sparked the inspiration for “The Yellow Wallpaper.” This story involving an unreliable narrator, became an allegory for repression of women. In “The Yellow Wallpaper”, Gilman illustrates the seclusion and oppression of women in the nineteenth century society by connecting the female imprisonment, social and mental state, and isolation to the objects in and around the room.
In “The Yellow Wallpaper” the narrator becomes more depressed throughout the story because of the recommendation of isolation that was made to her. In this short story the narrator is detained in a lonesome, drab room in an attempt to free herself of a nervous disorder. The narrator’s husband, a physician, adheres to this belief and forces his wife into a treatment of solitude. Rather than heal the narrator of her psychological disorder, the treatment only contributes to its effects, driving her into a severe depression. Under the orders of her husband, the narrator is moved to a house far from society in the country, where in she is locked into an upstairs room.
Treichler, Paula A. "Escaping the Sentence: Diagnosis and Discourse in The Yellow Wallpaper"' Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature. 3 (1984): 61-77.