Coping with Life and the Entrapment of Mental Illness: a Psychological Review of “the Yellow Wallpaper”

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Coping with Life and the Entrapment of Mental Illness:

A Psychological Review of “The Yellow Wallpaper”

Mental health problems surround each and every person, and it is up to each person to cope in their own ways, in order to reduce the pain that they may feel. Psychological criticisms look at the mind and the behaviors of the characters throughout the story. In “The Yellow Wallpaper”, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the protagonist suffers from mental health problems, and not only must cope with this, but must also cope with her husband and the environment he has placed her in to facilitate her rehabilitation. Gilman depicts a husband trying to cure his wife of her depression by letting her rest alone, however, this has the opposite effect by further exacerbating her illness and her psychosis. Her environment, with the yellow wallpaper, can be seen as the reason for this mental decline by looking at her illness, coping styles and the symbolism throughout the story.

Gilman presents the protagonist as a woman whose mental health is declining throughout the entire story, and whose illness has developed into something far more serious than it was originally. Depression can be seen in the narrator’s case through journal entries such as, “I cry at nothing, I cry at everything” (491). Through the several mentions of a baby, and the narrator as being unable to care for this baby, it seems as though the hysteria to which her husband was referring could be due to postpartum depression. Although it makes the unnamed narrator nervous to not be able to take care of the baby, she eventually sees that it is far better this way, when she says “I never thought of it before, but it is lucky that John kept me here after all; I can stand it so much easier than a baby, you see” (489, 492). If the narrator’s illness began as a case of depression, it certainly develops into something far more serious. Through her journal entries, her hallucinations or visualizations...
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