“The Yellow Wallpaper”, a story written around 1890, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, depicts a (nameless) woman with one child, married to John, a doctor who diagnosed his wife with neurasthenia, one of the nervous diseases common to women. First described in 1869 as a disease characterized by depression, extreme anxiety, and fatigue. The disease was generally understood to result from emotional sensitivity or "nervousness" on a fundamental level. John’s wife was confined, not of her choice, in a rented mansion, as a prescription for her health. (Gilman 344) John loved his wife without knowing her. He openly mocked her interest of writing and interacting with their baby, and kept her isolated most times in an upstairs nursery room with barred windows and yellow wallpaper. Her preference of rooms downstairs was not even considered. The sunshine dominated the nursery daily as John dominated each hour of her day with a “schedule prescription”. (Gilman 341) He planned every hour of the day carefully, ensuring that she would get plenty of rest without the chance to exercise her creativity. The doctor’s anecdote of his wife taking phosphates, tonics, journeys and air along with exercise was above reproach. If women had more of a voice, would approaches to treatment for mental illness have been more effective? Feeling powerless, the wife was relieved of her duties and cared for by her husband, the housekeeping was done by Jennie, her sister-in-law, and Mary cared for the baby.
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In Charlotte Perkins Gilman's “The Yellow Wallpaper” we are introduced to a woman who enjoys writing. Gilman does not give the reader the name of the women who narrates the story through her stream of consciousness. She shares that she has a nervous depression condition. John, the narrator’s husband feels it is “a slight hysterical tendency” (266). She has been treated for some nervous habits that she feels are legitimately causing harm to her way of life. However she feels her husband, a physician, and her doctor believe that she is embellishing her condition. The woman shares with the reader early in the story that she is defensive of how others around her perceive her emotional state. This causes a small abrasion of animosity that
and having carefully analyzed the text, I am leaning towards a diagnosis of, major depressive disorder. The observed symptoms, which the protagonist seems to line up with the following symptoms listed in for Major depressive disorder in the DSM-5 checklist provided in the book (Comer, 2014). In the short story, the protagonist has mentioned and expressed with her actions feeling: in a depressed mood for most of the day, Daily diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activates for most of the day, Decrease in daily appetite, experiencing hypersomnia, daily fatigue or loss of energy (Comer, 2014). These things mentioned are symptoms that are categorized as being
John’s views as a doctor forbid any type of activity, because he feels it will only worsen her fragile condition. She says, “So I take phosphates or phosphites- whichever it is- and tonics, and air and exercise, and journeys, and am absolutely for bidden to ‘work’ until I am well again” (Gilman 221). But the narrator believes she would feel better if she could write because she does not believe it to be “work”. “Personally I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good” (Gilman 221). The narrator believes that writing would help her get better more than the rest cure. John addresses his wife as “‘little girl,’ and chooses the nursery rather than one of the adult bedrooms for his wife” (Griffin 11). The narrator has absolute no control over her own care, “she disagrees with her husband’s orders forbidding her to work, yet her opinion goes unrecognized.” (Griffin 11). He treats her like a weak, fragile child, which for the most part is what women were described as in that time period.
In The Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte Perkins describes the story of a woman suffering from a mental illness during the 19th century. The protagonist (an unknown narrator) is a wife and mother suffering from postpartum depression. Her husband John, who is also her doctor, diagnosed her with hysteria and he decided to move away with her to start a “rest cure,” at a mansion, isolated from the village. The narrator was powerless against her husband, and he had the authority of determining what she does, who she sees, and where she goes while she recovers from her illness. Throughout the story, the author used stylistic elements, such as strong symbolism, to show how the mental state of the narrator slowly deteriorates and ends
Like the narrator, women of that time were directed to suppress their creativity as it threatened the dominating male's sense of control. By having the narrator be forced to write in secret, "There comes John, and I must put this away -- he hates to have me write a word," Gilman was able to show that even the simplest things, like wanting to write were forbidden, lest the male approved (392). Prohibited from working and not being able to contribute to the household as a proper wife, the narrator begins to feel helpless: "So I… am absolutely forbidden to ‘work’ until I am well again. Personally, I disagree with their ideas" (390). The narrator’s husband and brother both exert their own will over hers, forcing her to do what they think is the appropriate behavior for a sick woman. She has been given a "schedule[d] prescription for each hour in the day; [John] takes all care from me" (391). The way that she is required to act involves practically no exertion of her own free-will. Instead, she is expected to obediently accept the fact that her own ideas are mere fancy, and only the opinions of the men in her life can be trusted. The fact that she is not allowed to think for herself is narrowing the extent of her authority in her life and of her autonomy.
“The Yellow Wallpaper,” written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in 1892, is a great example of early works pertaining to feminism and the disease of insanity. Charlotte Gilman’s own struggles as a woman, mother, and wife shine through in this short story capturing the haunting realism of a mental breakdown.The main character, much like Gilman herself, slips into bouts of depression after the birth of her child and is prescribed a ‘rest cure’ to relieve the young woman of her suffering. Any use of the mind or source of stimulus is strictly prohibited, including the narrator’s favorite hobby of writing. The woman’s husband, a physician, installs into his wife that the rest treatment is correct and will only due harm if not followed through. This type of treatment ultimately drives the woman insane, causing her to envision a woman crawling behind the yellow wallpaper of her room. Powerlessness and repression the main character is subject to creates an even more poignant message through the narrator’s mental breakdown. The ever present theme of subordination of women in “The Yellow Wallpaper” is advanced throughout the story by the literary devices of symbolism, imagery, and allegory.
Until the medical breakthroughs that we have made in the modern day, psychology as a science was not fully understood. Modern technology has given us a clearer idea of psychology, but in the past there was less known about the science. This alongside a predominantly male medical discourse led to a medical diagnosis in many women called hysteria. Female hysteria was a medical diagnosis given to specifically women as far back as the ancient Greek civilization. Hysteria started as a supernatural phenomena, but as medicine evolved it would be described as a mental disorder, (Tasca). Hysteria. in actuality, is an absurd and fabricated diagnosis that institutionalized and discriminated countless women. The way it makes a women feel, and the fact that it strips a woman of any sort of free will is a sickening display of blatant misogyny. “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman perfectly displays not only the misogyny, but the torture a woman must face trapped under a hysteria diagnosis. Hysteria as a diagnoses fails to effectively treat many women, instead leading to the mistreatment and wrongful institutionalization of women.
Hysteria was the “go-to, catchall diagnosis” for all women, consisting of any “problem” including, but not limited to, nervousness, faintness, loss of appetite, (lack of) sexual desire, headaches, insomnia, muscle spasms, and trouble-making. For centuries, literature portrayed as submissive and obedient to men and oppressed by society, culture, and even men. In The Yellow Wallpaper, Gilman presents readers with a story of a woman suffering from depression, possibly post-partum, but whose remedy is “rest cure,” a treatment invented by Silas Weir Mitchell for neurasthenia involving isolation and rest as a cure for hysteria in all its forms. The Yellow Wallpaper is a narrative concerning the gradual demise of the mental stability of an unnamed, newly married upper-middle class woman in late nineteenth century rural America. Gilman uses psychological terror to not only portray the narrator’s fall to insanity, but also to shed light on the rather unfortunate role of women in the institution of marriage. The narrator’s husband, John, is a physician who firmly expresses disbelief in his wife’s claims of depression. From the beginning of the story, the reader can tell immediately that the narrator has absolutely no voice. John assures her and others that nothing is wrong but “temporary nervous
John, the narrator’s controlling, but loving, husband represents the atypical man of the time. He wants his wife to get better and to be able to fill the role of the perfect wife that society expected from her. John, being a doctor, did not quite believe that her mental illness was out of her control and insisted on
It is believed the narrator (sometimes identified as Jane) in “The Yellow Wallpaper” is diagnosed with temporary nervous depression after having a baby. Her husband, John, denies she has a “real” problem (Gilman 87). He takes
In Charlotte Gilman’s short story "The Yellow Wallpaper," Jane, the main character, is a good example of Sigmund Freud’s Studies In Hysteria. Jane suffers from symptoms such as story making and daydreaming. Jane has a nervous weakness throughout the story.
In the late 1800's/early 1900's, when Charlotte Perkins Gilman experienced her episode of "temporary nervous depression" (Gilman 885), and wrote her autobiographical short story, "The Yellow Wallpaper," the workings of the mind were mysteries that few medical people attempted to investigate. A patient who was poor and ill-educated and exhibiting signs of mental disorder was institutionalized -- ala Bedlam. The patient who was rich, educated, and/or from a "good family" was called eccentric and given a prescription for complete mental rest and controlled physical exercise combined with the consumption of phosphorus enriched tonics. This regimen was to be followed in an environment
When Gilman and Jane, the protagonist in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” was diagnosed with melancholia, or neurasthenia, they were given the rest cure treatment by their doctor. The rest cure included:
Before beginning to analyze "The Yellow Wallpaper" from a feminist viewpoint, one must consider first how women were perceived in late-nineteenth century America. A common knowledge of history reveals that they were legally and socially second class citizens, not even earning the right to vote until 1920. One of Gilman's chief complaints was that "...women had long been competing over men in a system of oppression that had its roots in a precapitalist culture. Only men could promise economic security in a world which would not employ women" (Bauer, 132). In a world where men forced women to depend upon them in order to keep women in an inferior and powerless role, it is not surprising that so many women developed "neurasthenia." In his short story "Old Doc Rivers," William C. Williams explains neurasthenia as a label that arose where "...they never did discover what was the matter with the patient," perhaps because nothing really was "the matter," only what happens to any person deprived of exercise, freedom, and the ability to think for one's self (Williams,