Historical Treatment In The Yellow Wallpaper By Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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The 19th century was a remarkable era for the advancement of technology, marking the creation of the cotton gin, light bulb, telegraph, steam locomotive, and other notable inventions that revolutionized the lives of Americans forever. However, with all of these incredible technological advancements, physicians still created ill-informed theories about the rationale behind mental illness. Men, women, and children in the 1800s could be medically diagnosed as "mentally ill” if they showed any signs of religious excitement, domestic unhappiness, physical sickness, or jealousy, whereas today these diagnoses would be seen as foolish and injudicious. In "The Yellow Wallpaper", Charlotte Perkins Gilman gives an insight into the historical treatment…show more content…
After the birth of her daughter Katharine, she developed postpartum depression which usually arises as a result of hormonal changes, psychological adjustment to motherhood, and fatigue. For years, she battled with this disorder suffering from “a severe and continuous nervous breakdown tending to melancholia - and beyond” until going to an infamous neurologist by the name of Silas Weir Mitchell. Weir advised Gilman to abide by his rest cure, forbidding her from working another day in her life. “..He concluded there was nothing much the matter with me and he sent me home with solemn advice to ‘live as domestic life as far as possible (245)”. Like the narrator in “The Yellow Wallpaper” this did not make Gilman better but worsened her distress. She obeyed the doctor’s directions only for over three months before she came “so near the border line of utter mental ruin that [she] could see over” (245). Then she abandoned the rest cure and moved to California, divorced her husband, remarried, and dedicated herself to the world of literature and politics (232). Unlike Gilman, the narrator succumbs to insanity at the end of the story. Gilman uses this alternative ending to her story to alert national attention to the problem of the resting cure and not “drive people crazy, but to people from being crazy” (246). And it worked. By 1850, postpartum depression was nationally acknowledged by medical professionals as a disorder
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