Male View of Hysteria Presented in The Yellow Wallpaper

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Male View of Hysteria Presented in The Yellow Wallpaper Charlotte Perkins Gilman's short story "The Yellow Wallpaper" has been viewed as either a work of supernatural horror or as a feminist treatise regarding the role of women in society. A close analysis of Gilman's use of symbols reveals "The Yellow Wallpaper" as her response to the male view of hysteria from ancient times through the nineteenth century. " In "The Yellow Wallpaper" Gilman questions the validity of Hippocrates's theory of the wandering uterus and Weir Mitchell's "rest cure". As she wrote in her essay "Why I Wrote the Yellow Wallpaper?", "[the story] was not intended to drive people crazy, but to save people from being driven crazy…" (107). By her own…show more content…
Hippocrates explained that the various symptoms of hysteria, such as nervousness, depression, and hysterical fits, were caused by the uterus's interactions with the other organs in the body. In his text "On the Nature of Women" he explains the cause and treatment of a hysterical fit: If the uterus comes towards the liver, the female suddenly becomes speechless, and clenches her teeth, and her color comes back…In such situations, push beneath the liver with the hand and tighten a bandage beneath the hypochondria, and by opening the mouth administer a most fragrant wine, and anoint the nostrils and apply malodorous fumigations. And fragrant fumigations below the uterus. (Palis 227) Not only was the uterus capable of wandering around the body, it was believed that the womb was attracted and repelled by certain odors. Gilman seems to address the ridiculousness of such logic when she refers to the inconsistencies in the design of the wallpaper in "The Yellow Wallpaper." The narrator complains, "On a pattern like this, by daylight, there is a lack of sequence, a defiance of law, that is a constant irritant to a normal mind" (263). This same complaint could be used against the popular view of hysteria. The theory that the woman's uterus dislodged itself in the body and wandered around aimlessly violates natural law. In this respect, the ancient view of hysteria is similar to the wallpaper

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