The Yellow Wallpaper, By Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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 of the mentally unstable through the lens of a young woman battling with depression to demonstrate the recurring themes of the immorality of the resting cure and the subordination of women in marriage and society along with her own personal experiences.

“The Yellow Wallpaper” is an example of the way a human’s mind that is previously overwhelmed with apprehension can worsen when it is kept from healthy activities and coerced into indolence. In the beginning of the short story, the narrator is relatively normal - she recognizes the details of the setting around her and expresses a very imaginative mind, envisioning the haunted ambience of the estate she resides in. However, towards the end of the story, her husband, John, prohibits her from doing any activities exercising her imagination which causes her mind to slowly deteriorate. Medical practitioners during this time named this treatment the “resting cure”. Female patients might be prescribed the rest cure if one’s friends and family detec...


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...ed for the household. Minimal rights for women concerning their roles in marriage and employment led to a second-rate position in society compared to men. If a woman dared to step out of place, she would be viewed on the same level as a prostitute (Pouba 95).“If a physician of high standing, and one’s own husband assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression – a slight hysterical tendency – what is one to do” (233). In this passage, the narrator realizes that her own opinions will never be taken into consideration because of her gender inferiority to her male friends and family. Although she disagrees with the treatment, she knows she has no power to alter the situation. Like many other women in the 1800s, she is forced into becoming completely passive to the male authoritative voices surrounding her.

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