Comparing “The Yellow Wallpaper” and “A Jury of Her Peers”

Topics: Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper, Silas Weir Mitchell Pages: 8 (3142 words) Published: November 27, 2013
Comparing “The Yellow Wallpaper” and “A Jury of Her Peers”
Many great authors have written stories about the oppression women faced in the past and one was Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the author of the late 19th century short story “The Yellow Wallpaper.” She portrays the struggles and hardships that women of that period experienced through brilliant uses of theme, mood, tone, and imagery. Another equally great author that used imagery and events that happened in real life to describe the struggles women faced was Susan Glaspell. Her short story “A Jury of Her Peers” tells a story of a woman whose oppressive husband was murdered in his sleep while his wife slept beside him and Glaspell uses subtle imagery through the entire story to portray her message. The center point of the “The Yellow Wallpaper” is the treatment known as the rest cure, which was a common practice for treating mental illnesses, and which acts as a symbol of oppression that the narrator battled with her husband over. Both Gilman and Glaspell use symbols throughout the story to help the reader understand the purpose of the piece of work and to connect the fictitious stories to real world problems.

In the 1880s an American neurologist by the name of Silas Weir Mitchell developed the idea he called the rest cure. The rest cure treatment was prescribed predominantly to females who had shown signs of mental illness such as hysteria and postpartum depression (Oppenheim 1). The concept of the radical treatment was the patient was required to do as little as possible; they were rarely allowed to see family or friends, were bed ridden, and were fed by a nurse daily (Oppenheim 1). Many women received the rest cure as treatment over the years for various reasons, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman was one of them. This experience led her to write “The Yellow Wallpaper” and helped her connect with the story on a personal level.

In the beginning of the story the narrator introduces the rest cure as her husband John takes his ill wife to a summer home that he had rented specifically to help her overcome her unknown mental illness. The narrator knows something is wrong with her but her husband, who is a physician, does not. She states that “John is a physician, and perhaps that is one reason I do not get well faster” (Gilman 609). And then goes on to say “you see he does not believe I am sick” (Gilman 609). During the time little was known about a mental illness which is the reason why archaic treatments such as the rest cure came about. The narrator disagrees with the treatment from the start. She believes the exact opposite of what the rest cure stands for, “personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good” (Gilman 609). However it was socially unacceptable for a wife to disagree with her husband during that time period, especially on educated matters, she follows his orders.

John places her in a room upstairs, the nursery, to stay while they are living at the house. This is where her obsession with the wallpaper first begins; she dislikes it simply because of the color and pattern, stating “One of those sprawling flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin,” (Gilman 3) and “the color is repellent, almost revolting” (Gilman 610). After several weeks her obsession continues to grow and takes a darker turn, she starts to see faces in the wallpaper taunting her “There is a recurrent spot where the pattern lolls like a broken neck and two bulbous eyes stare at you upside down” (Gilman 610). Now instead of just disliking the wallpaper for its physical attributes since has started to seem human characteristics in the wallpaper, and she now hates it as if it were a real person.

After over a month of the rest cure, it is clear that the narrator is not recovering from her illness, but is in fact worsening. She states, “John says that if I don’t pick it up faster he is going to send me to Weir...

Cited: Glaspell, Susan. “A Jury of Her Peers.” eds. The Norton Introduction to Literature. 10th ed. New York: Norton, 20120. Print.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins .“The Yellow Wallpaper.” eds. The Norton Introduction to Literature. 10th ed. New York: Norton, 2010. Print.
Oppenheim, Jack. ed. The Rest Cure. Science Museum UK.
N.p. May 2009. Web. April 5, 2012.
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