The Yellow Wallpaper: A Story of Social Criticism
Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper possesses gothic and horror elements and takes place in the United States during the Victorian Era; the ideas of Victorianism were much applied in the United States as well as in the British Empire. In this story, the protagonist’s husband, who is also her doctor, subjects her to the horrific “rest cure” treatment for her nervous depression. During the treatment, she stays in a room with revolting, yellow, arabesque- patterned wallpaper; she finds women hidden behind this wallpaper and is therefore driven insane. Although the story seems quite simplistic, The Yellow Wallpaper nonetheless serves as a critique for the “rest cure” treatment and the role of women in the Victorian Era.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman endured a similar plight as her protagonist in The Yellow Wallpaper. While Gilman was plagued with nervous depression, she sought out Dr. Mitchell, a world famous curator. His treatment for nervous depression, also known as the “rest cure”, turned out to be more detrimental than beneficial. The treatment involved isolation from friends and family, inertia, overfeeding, immobility, and a lack of intellectual stimulation. Gilman found herself on the brink of emotional collapse and insanity by the end of her treatment, similar to the main character in her story The Yellow Wallpaper. As a result, she wrote this story to manifest the effects of the “rest cure” treatment and to hopefully revolutionize the realm of women’s health. Gilman sent a copy of The Yellow Wallpaper to Dr. Mitchell in hope of him understanding the severity of the treatment; unfortunately, Dr. Mitchell continued his practices of the “rest cure”, having it applied throughout his entire hospital. Nevertheless, her story effectively conveyed to society the detriments of the “rest cure”. Besides displaying the harmful effects of this treatment, Gilman incorporates profound symbolism to render...
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