The Rest Cure : A False Practice Essay

The Rest Cure : A False Practice Essay

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The Rest Cure: A False Practice
“I’m calm, I’m swell, I’m not screaming, I’m resting” (Mueller). Around the turn of the 19th century, many patients were treated for depression and anxiety with Dr. Weir Mitchell’s “Rest Cure” which promoted weeks of bed rest, a fatty diet, and minimal amounts of interactions. An article by Julia Mueller published in 1936 by the Alumnae Association of the Lenox Hill Hospital School of Nursing exploits the issues of this practice as it contains the narrative of a Rest Cure patient who has undergone the treatment. An earlier and highly-regarded piece of literature known as “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman was published in The New England Magazine in 1892, and told the story of a woman experiencing anxiety and depression after the birth of her new baby. This is commonly referred to as “Postpartum” depression, and was treated by Dr. Mitchell’s rest cure. The reader follows the chronological, first-person accounts of the narrator as she goes through her treatment, and although it only contains traces of autobiography from the author, the story gives an inventive and complex look at the inefficiencies and the opposite effects the treatment had on its patients. Through a lack of self-trust, a gradual increase in paranoia, and the personal relationship developed with the ominous figure in the wallpaper, Gilman’s narrator displays the ineffectiveness of the Rest Cure’s sedentary lifestyle.
The Rest Cure had the intentions of curing their patients of their nervousness, but the narrator of “The Yellow Wallpaper” displays a lack of self-trust that leads readers to see the truth about its imperfections. From the beginning of the story, the treatment the narrator has been receiving is a week o...

... middle of paper ...

...hand experience, Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote the short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” and uncovered the sordid reality of the practice. It pushed the boundaries of rhetoric, especially for women, and changed the way people understood those who fell ill to psychological problems. The 1936 account from Lenox Hill School of Nursing shows that the treatment wasn’t discontinued for many years, but nonetheless the obvious lack of necessity provided further proof that it didn’t have positive, real results. “I’m fine, I really am” says the Lenox Hill patient, but by writing a narrator who trusts not even herself, who quickly becomes paranoid, and who unites herself to a woman stuck in the patterns of yellow wallpaper, Gilman provides the cold, hard truth that people will not improve their mental complications with the sedentary rest cure, and are most certainly not fine ().

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