The Yellow Wallpaper, a short story written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and published in 1892 is a story that traces both the phycological and feminist side of The Yellow Wallpaper.
Gilman a women’s rights activist, writer, wife, and mother. Believed that she lived in a time period where women were kept in a position where they prevented them from working anywhere else besides home. Which affects mental and creative thinking.
Gilman’s marriage wasn’t easy to manage family life Gilman felt she couldn’t really satisfy everyone in the family. She believed that things needed to change. Women needed to have the opportunity to work, to grow, and to have connections outside of the home. To be able to have a sense of identity and self-advocacy for one’s self. Over the years Gilman wrote many essays concerning concepts of social reform, progressive change, and an autobiography.
Her most famous work is The Yellow Wallpaper. Which was inspired by her own experiences and life lessons? While Gilman was in her twenty’s when she got married and one year later gave birth to a daughter. It was after the birth of her daughter, she suffered from severe postpartum depression.
The doctor suggested the cure for this by her doctor was absolutely nothing. She was prescribed by her doctor to do nothing, but relax and not think too much. A rest cure which is what they called back then. A length of time which the patient did a minimal physical activity and had very limited mental stimulation. It was a very miserable time for Gilman who was reduced to a mental break down, she decided to no longer listen to both of them, and she eventually started to improve. Shortly after Gilman left her husband and began her writing life, and felt that the postpartum experience and the traumatic course of action left scars that she will feel for the rest of her life.
It was from that point on that Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote The Yellow Wallpaper. The story is written in first person in a form of journal interties. The female narrator remains nameless and as well as husband John goes on a vacation over the summer after the birth of their daughter. John seems to believe that this would be good for the narrator, because of her unusual behavior, which leads to her rest cure treatment until she improves.
John feels the best place for the narrator is a room that is designed like a nursery with bars on the window, scratches on the floor, and interesting yellow wallpaper. As the narrator describes, It is a big, airy room, the whole floor nearly, with windows that look all ways, and sunshine galore. It was nursery first and then playroom and gymnasium, I should judge; for the windows are barred for little children, and their rings and things in the walls”(Gilman 348-349). The way the narrator describes the room she staying shows her uncomfortableness and attitude toward the whole experience. The narrator disagrees with John which also happens to be a doctor, who wants her to also do nothing and follow the rest cure treatment. He believes doing things that she loves to do won’t help her improve from overthinking, and that doing absolutely nothing will cure her.
The narrator believes that distraction will be best for her, so she continues to write more, regardless of the “medication” prescribed to her. She continues to write by hiding her journal from her husband. Her journal interties consisted of descriptions of what the house looked like, things she imaged going nearby, and the narrator’s true feelings for her husband ideas, which feel harsh. She then talks about the room specifically, the wallpaper. She finds the wallpaper ugly, and sometimes scary. She begins to examine the wallpaper and images designs in it, she believes she sees a woman behind bars. At this point, the narrator is becoming delusional, and the women she sees a woman in the wallpaper is characterized as herself.
An example of this, “There comes John’s sister. Such a dear girl as she is, and so careful of me! I must not let her find me writing. She is a perfect and enthusiastic housekeeper, and hopes for no better profession.
I verily believe she thinks it is the writing which made me sick!” (Gilman 263). The narrator feels that John’s sister believes that her writing is the true cause of her illness, but she feels that this is not true and that writing is more of a coping method and jotting down all the things that she feels and bottles up inside helps her express her emotions in a way she isn’t judged. She envisions the women shacking he bars of the cells at night trying to get out. The woman in the wallpaper haunts her.
The narrator spends time trying to tear off all the wallpaper to free the woman. She begins a habit of crawling around the room, she is convinced that she is a trapped woman herself and once was stuck in the wallpaper. This is seen as total madness and creeping along the ways of the room, her husband happens to walk in and faints with horror in disbelieve of how the narrator is acting. She continues to go around the ignoring that her husband is around.
An example of this is, “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”(Gilman 6). The narrator feels that she has nothing she can really think about, so she decided to focus on the wallpaper. The narrator is driven to an obsession with the wallpaper. She is seen as normal and in her normal mind, but no really know that it’s up to the reader to determine that. But later fascinates about the wallpaper to an unhealthy degree. Which causes her to she is imprisoned and excluded from the rest of society. With all this in mind, The Yellow Wallpaper is a story about a woman is dealing with her postpartum depression, she listens to the advice given by her husband and doctor of resting and doing absolutely nothing.
They are not in the comfort of their own home, but in a rented house where the narrator is given a room, she doesn’t feel comfortable in. She is told to do absolutely nothing and to not think about much but to use this time to relax and reflect on her life. This causes her to become insane with the way the room is set up and what thoughts make her feel. This conveys the message that women are kept in a kind of prison in marriage and in life.
By the narrator doing what her husband and doctor told her, this shows that gender oppression was ruing her life by being prescribed the rest cure, John loved his wife and thought he was doing his best to help his wife. What her husband and the rest cure imply is that women are misunderstood and by those who are making decisions for them, which isn’t always the best thing to do not being their situations. Overall The Yellow Wallpaper is seen as feminist literature shows the lack of opportunity women have outside of the parent marriage roles they have. The Yellow Wallpaper is and was the best unique representation of feminist and psychological fiction.