Feminist Aspects of The Yellow Wallpaper The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman can by read in many different ways. Some think of it as a tragic horror story while others may find it to be a tale of a woman trying to find her identity in a male-dominated society. The story is based on an episode in Gilman's life when she suffered from a nervous disease called melancholia. A male specialist advised her to "live a domestic a life as far as possible.. and never to touch a pen, brush or pencil..." (Gilman, 669). She lived by these guidelines for three months until she came close to suffering from a nervous breakdown.
In 1884, Charlotte Perkins married Charles Walter Stetson and had one daughter. Following the birth of her daughter, she was greatly depressed and took a therapeutic 3 month trip to California. Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell was consulted in 1884 by Mr. Stetson to treat his wife for what was then called hysteria. Dr. Mitchell’s treatment involved complete isolation and the removal of anything that might cause "mental stimulation," and so Charlotte spend her 3 months isolated in a room in a large country estate, estranged from her daughter and husband. Following her divorce from her husband in 1894, Charlotte Perkins Stetson became a committed social activist and feminist.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s story The Yellow Wallpaper demonstrates how women in the late 1800s felt trapped to their husbands, how men typically thought less of women, and how men made the house hold decisions. Before the women’s rights movement got started in the late 1800s woman had little rights causing them to feel trapped to men. One of the reasons that women would sometimes feel trapped to men is because women at the time could not own their own land, and society looked at them as either their father’s belonging or when they got married they belonged to their husband. Women wanted to be able to own their own land and to be able to form their own identity by what they have accomplished in life (Gender Issues and Sexuality). Since the fathers or husbands “owned” the women of that time this could sometimes make the women feel trapped.
The story was written in 1892, before women had gained the right to vote. Stetson was a keen women's right campaigner and felt that blatant male dominance was wrong. It was written eight years after Charlotte Perkins Gilman (Charlotte Stetson at the time) was, herself, suffering from post-natal depression. Stetson was, at the time, told to rest one hour after every meal, only have two hours of intellectual life a day and never to touch pen, brush or pencil again. This was described as the 'rest' cure.
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).
Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s work, “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a story that the author wrote to depict her own struggle with mental illness. In order to really appreciate this story, it may help to know about the author’s life. Born in 1860, she was the only child of Mary Finch Westcott and Frederick Beecher Perkins, a librarian and writer. It is said that Charlotte’s father abandoned his family, and, on the verge of poverty, they were forced to move around frequently (Merriman). At the age of 24, Charlotte married her first husband, Charles Watson Stetson, with whom she bore a daughter, Katharine Beecher Stetson.
The care from Dr. Mitchell, and her husband consisted of isolation and total rest. It was not long before Charlotte was driven to insanity due to these reprimands encourage by both her husband, and the doctor. Shortly after she fled the care of her husband and Dr. Mitchell, she moved to California, and began a career as a lecturer and writer on feminist topics(Gilman782). In 1892, Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote the most significant, and image-like story of her life, known as “The Yellow Wallpaper”. Gilman uses an unnamed narrator of the story.
Tyer 1 Drew Tyer Jennifer McCune ENGL 1312 24 February 2005 No Work and No Play Makes Jane a Dull Girl Jane in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” was “touched” as some say long before she was prescribed, and administered the “rest cure” by her husband for her then unknown ailment now called postpartum depression. The boredom and isolation of this cure only allowed her mind to venture farther down a dark and winding corridor of insanity. Jane has recently had a child and is experiencing what we know today as postpartum depression. Back in the 1800's doctors had no understanding of these symptoms, so they chalked it all up to a temporary nervous depression. This was cured by a treatment called the “rest cure” popularized by Dr. S. Weir Mitchell.
“I never saw so much expression in an inanimate object before.” (The Yellow Wallpaper) In order to understand Charlotte Gilman’s stories one must first know about the life she lead. In 1884 Charlotte married her husband Charles Walter Stetson and began to sink into depression. During this time Gilman wrote her famous story The Yellow Wallpaper (Radcliffe). Within the story the reader can pick out parts of Gilman’s own life woven into it. Gilman, like the main character Jane had postpartum depression as a result of this she divorced Stetson and sent their daughter to live with him and his second wife.
“Women were forced to be dependent on their husband’s for financial support” (Cruea 2). This was unfair, being a victim of discrimination and feeling forced to rely on your husband to meet financial need should have been sociably unacceptable. However, it wasn’t in this time period. “A Doll’s House” tells how Nora was left to take care of the financial responsibilities while Torvald was sick, and this situation led on to cause many problems in their marriage. Nora was unsure how to get money in this situation, made a deceitful decision, and hid it from her husband.