October 27, 2008
“The Yellow Wallpaper”
“The Yellow Wallpaper”, is a short story by an American writer, Charlotte Perkins Gilman,
who creates a scenario using the first-person perspective. She illustrates the general attitude of American Feminists in the 1900’s regarding women’s physical and mental health. During this time, many women were diagnosed with depression or mental disorders, quite commonly classified as hysteria. The narrative suggests that the main character possibly suffers from what would be referred to in modern times as postpartum depression. Here, the author characterizes a woman through her journal entries, who is depressed and agonized by isolation and illness, and descends into madness.
John, the narrator’s husband, is a high-standing physician and a very practical person. He diagnoses his wife with as he says “…/…really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression-a slight hysterical tendency-what is one to do?” (138). She thinks he doesn’t believe that she is ill at all. His recommended treatment for recovery reads “…/…tonics, and journeys, and air, and exercise, and am ‘absolutely forbidden to work’ until I am well again” (138). To confirm this further, her brother, who is also of high-standing, agrees with John.
For three months in the summer they go to the country for her recovery, and as they approached the home, the narrator has a strange feeling about the house; her thoughts are “A colonial mansion, a hereditary estate, I would say a haunted house and reach the height of romantic felicity-but that would be asking too much of fate!” (138). Later, her entry reads, “…/…there is something strange about the house-I can feel it” (139). To her distress, John tells
her not to fancy those ideas and that he may have to send her to another doctor, and she writes “John says if I don’t pick up faster he shall send me to Weir Mitchell in the fall”...