Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the Rest Cure.
"The Yellow Wallpaper" and Its Autobiographical Background.
Contents 1. Introduction 3 2. Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Biographical Background 4 2.1 General Information 4 2.2 Gilman and the Rest Cure 5 3. The Rest Cure 5 4. Parallels between Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Experiences and Her Short Story "The Yellow Wallpaper" 6 4.1 Comparison of Fictional Characters with Authentic Persons 6 4.1.1 The Narrator Compared with Charlotte Perkins Gilman 6 4.2.2 John Compared with S. Weir Mitchell 7 4.2 Images and Stylistic Means Used to Emphasize the Author's Intention 8 4.2.1 The Function of Madness 9 4.2.2 The Wallpaper 9 4.3.3 The Final Scene 11 5. Conclusion 12 6. Bibliography 14 1. Introduction Literature, an art of expressing feelings and emotions with the help of words, has been and is primarily used by writers as an instrument to convey a certain message to the reader. In many stories one can discover analogies to the autobiographical background of the author, who intended to express, more or less covert, an essential incident and its effect on the mind. A valid example is the short story "The Yellow Wallpaper" written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in 1890. The female main character becomes mad by undergoing a special rest cure, supervised by her husband, which should cure her from a nervous depression. Even this brief summary makes perceptible that there are certain parallels to the life of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, who also suffered from the Rest Cure of a famous neurologist. The more thoroughly one studies the central character, the male antagonist and the environmental circumstances in "The Yellow Wallpaper" the more similarities can be found to the biography of the author Charlotte Perkins Gilman. She describes here a crucial experience made by herself and what it produced in her, for passing its meaning to the reader.
It will be the aim of this paper to elucidate and explain these parallels between "The Yellow Wallpaper" and the life of the author. At the beginning, the reader shall be given general information about the biography of Charlotte Perkins Gilman and about the Rest Cure she underwent. In the main part fictional characters and real persons out of Gilman's life are compared to each other, and thereupon important images and stylistic devices are presented and investigated that are used by the author to confirm her message.
2. Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Biographical Background Before analysing the text, it is necessary to get an impression of the person Charlotte Perkins Gilman by having a look at her life and her condition during the Rest Cure. The knowledge about her life in general and especially about the time she spent with S. Weir Mitchell, build a fundamental basis for a productive and comprehensible comparison with the story and it's interpretation.
2.1 General Information Charlotte Anna Perkins was born in 1860 in Hartford, Connecticut and grew up in a middle-class family without a father. After school she studied at the Rhode Island School of Design but she did not graduate. At the age of 24 she married Charles Walter Stetson and one year later her daughter Katharine Beecher Stetson was born. Subsequently she fell into a depressive constitution and therefore decided to undergo a Rest Cure of the nerve specialist Silas Weir Mitchell. After this dubious experience, whose course and impact will be presented in the following two paragraphs, and the separation from her husband she picked up her career as an author with the satiric poem "Similar Cases" and her masterpiece "The Yellow Wallpaper". She wrote several books and was very active in social and feminist congresses as well as in economic issues ("Women and Economics", 1897). In 1900, one year after her father died of a nervous collapse, she got married with Houghton Gilman. She wrote a few utopian works serialized in the magazine Forerunner whose editor she was for seven years. In 1932, breast...
Bibliography: 6.1 Primary literature Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. "The Yellow Wallpaper." The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories. Ed. Robert Shulman. Oxford, New York: OUP, 1998. 3-19.
6.2 Secondary literature Golden, Catherine. ""Overwriting ' the Rest Cure. Charlotte Perkins Gilman 's Literary Escape from S. Weir Mitchell 's Fictionalization of Women." Critical Essays on Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Ed. Joanne B. Karpinski. New York: Hall, 1992. 144-155.
Hedges, Elaine R. ""Out at Last? ' "The Yellow Wallpaper ' after Two Decades of Feminist Criticism." Critical Essays on Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Ed. Joanne B. Karpinski. New York: Hall, 1992. 222-231.
Hume, Beverly A. "Gilman 's "Interminable Grotesque '. The Narrator of "The Yellow Wallpaper '." Studies in Short Fiction. Volume 28. Ed. Newberry College. New York: Johnson, 1991. 477-482.
Johnson, Greg. "Gilman 's Gothic Allegory. Rage and Redemption in "The Yellow Wallpaper '." Studies in Short Fiction. Volume 28. Ed. Newberry College. New York: Johnson, 1991. 521-530.
Kessler, Karol Farley. Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Her Progress Toward Utopia with Selected Writings. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1995. http://www-unix.oit.unmass.edu/~clit121/weirmit.html (20.04.2001).
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