May 13, 2014
The Yellow Wallpaper
Charlotte Perkins Gillman was a writer and social reformer, a feminist as she encouraged women to gain their independence. Charlotte Perkins Gilman was born on July 3, 1860, in Hartford, Connecticut. Gilman was a writer and social activist during the late 1800s and early 1900s. She had a difficult childhood. Her father, Frederick Beecher Perkins was a relative of well-known and influential Beecher family, including the writer Harriet Beecher Stowe. But he abandoned the family, leaving Charlotte's mother to raise two children on her own. Gilman moved around a lot as a result and her education suffered greatly for it. (website) In 1878, Gilman enrolled in the Rhode Island School of Design, supporting herself as a tutor and an artist of trade cards. In 1883, Gilman published her first works, sending articles and poems to the “Providence Journal,” the “Woman’s Journal,” “The Century,” and the “Christian Register.” In 1884, Gilman married Charles Walter Stetson, and three months after their marriage, Gilman learned that she was pregnant and began to suffer from some symptoms of depression. After the birth of her daughter, Katharine, in 1885, Gilman became overwhelmed with depression and began treatment with Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell, a noticeable physician who favored the “rest cure” for the treatment of nervous disorders. Although Gilman attempted to follow Mitchell’s prescriptions, she was unable to tolerate the treatment for more than a few months. Gilman later mocked the treatment in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” which she published in 1892.
The narrator of the story begins her journal by admiring the amazing attributes of the house that her husband has taken them for the summer while their current house has some renovations done to it. Her husband John is also her doctor and throughout the story he seems to belittle both her illness and her thoughts and concerns in general. Her treatment of nervous depression is said to be done by not doing anything. She can’t work or do any kind of activity. This is the type of treatment that is called “The Rest Cure” that was implemented by Silas Weir Mitchell. She feels that activity, freedom and interesting work would help her condition, thus she has begun her secret journal in order to help “relieve her mind.” What is ironic about this is that her writing in her journal is anything but relieving. In fact it makes her even more “insane”. This journal is kept secret from her husband and also her sister who comes to visit. Her writing is only interrupted when they come into the room. The room that her husband has her staying is has a bed that is nailed down to the floor and this yellow wallpaper that seems to disturb her. She describes the bedroom as being used for young children as a nursery once. She points out that scratches and gouges in the floor and the bars that are on the window. She also begins to see a strange sub-pattern being the main design of the wallpaper. She begins to see a design of a woman that is “stooping down and creeping” behind the main pattern. The main pattern looks like the bars of a cage. Finally she realizes that the sub-pattern now clearly resembles a woman who is trying to get out from behind the main pattern. At night the narrator sees her shaking the bars at night and creeping around during the day. Suddenly she assumes that her husband and sister are now aware of her obsessions with the wallpaper that she is determined to destroy it. She peels off as much as she can in the night, even tearing some down with her teeth. By the end of the story the narrator has become hopelessly insane, convinced that there are many creeping women around and that she herself is one of them and has come out of the wallpaper, that she is the trapped woman. She is left creeping around the room with wallpaper everywhere, her husband shows up at the door. She tells him that she is free and has liberated herself....
Cited: Gillman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wallpaper. 1892.
Website, The biogrpahy.com. Charlotte Anna Perkins Stetson Gilman. 2014. .
SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on "The Yellow Wallpaper.” SparkNotes.com. SparkNotes LLC. 2006. Web. 30 Apr. 2014.
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