Yellow Wallpaper Mental Health

Superior Essays
The Yellow Wallpaper and Women’s Mental Health
Society’s view of women as fragile, subservient, easily excited creatures propelled many of them into madness during the 1800s and early 1900s when the “Rest Cure” was pushed by a patriarchal medical community. Dr. Weir Mitchell developed the “Rest Cure” in the late 1800s for the treatment of hysteria, neurasthenia and other nervous illnesses (Science Museum). This widely prescribed, though now notorious treatment, was a way of life for many women and is a prominent feature of Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” where we explore the effects of this patriarchal imposition on women’s mental health. By stifling his wife’s creativity and freedom, John forces her into a corner where she’s trapped by her
…show more content…
Per the Mayo Clinic, Postpartum depression typically manifests with the following signs “Mood swings, anxiety, sadness, irritability, feeling overwhelmed, crying, reduced concentration, appetite problems, trouble sleeping.” (“Postpartum depression”) Our narrator displays quite a few of these signs, especially when John meddles with her freedom and ability to be a mother. “-- Such a dear baby! And yet I cannot be with him, it makes me so nervous!” (Gardener 78). This nervousness, that originally sparked the Rest Cure fix, is exasperated by the vicious looming presence of the wallpaper in her room. The narrator is panicked by “—a recurrent spot where the pattern lolls like a broken neck and two bulbous eyes stare at you upside down (Gardener 79)”. After bringing up her nervousness about this wallpaper, John laughs her off and says that “nothing was worse for a nervous patent than to give way to such fancies.” (Gardener 78) Basically cutting all confidence in her, and causing her to obsess more and more over the paper – which would have been an easy fix. The narrator tells us that as a young child she used to “lie awake as a child and get more entertainment and terror out of blank walls and plain furniture than most children could find in a toy-store.” (Gardener 79) This entertainment and terror could be an example of the narrator’s mental state her whole life, as one of the risk factors of postpartum depression is a history of depression (“Postpartum depression”). On the other hand, postpartum psychosis is much more severe and a person who has this needs to seek immediate help. The Mayo Clinic lists symptoms postpartum psychosis as “Confusion and disorientation, obsessive thoughts about your baby, hallucinations and delusions, sleep disturbances, paranoia and attempts to harm yourself or your baby.” (“Postpartum depression”). Gilman brilliantly shows

Related Documents

  • Improved Essays

    Unbeknownst to John, the room “perpetuated fear and bred paranoia” (Bak 2) in his wife, contrary to his actions that he thought would be helpful. The wallpaper is the most detrimental to her health, for she constantly thinks about it. Her life revolves around the wallpaper at all time. Not just one component of the house leads to the loss of her sanity, but a barrage of mentally taxing thought processes does. In conclusion, Gilman lays a framework for her story by using a personal document of the narrator, the environment, and foreshadowing.…

    • 1120 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    It drove her insane, as I would imagine it would do to any human being! One other quote that stuck out to me in this article was “The medicalization of unhappiness as depression is one of the great disasters of the twentieth century, and it is a disaster that has had, and still has a very big impact on women” (Oakley 32). Today an even back then women have struggled with postpartum depression and figuring out ways to overcome it. Something that interest me is how women were treated back then for postpartum versus how women are treated now. Nowadays, solitary confinement, staring into bedroom walls all day would be a very absurd idea!…

    • 1487 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    People often refer to mental illness as being trapped in one’s own mind. This is undoubtedly depicted in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s story “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Gilman’s story, written in 1891, captivates readers and allows one to enter the mind of a mentally ill person and experience this illness in a first-hand narrative version; almost as if reading the diary of Jane. “The Yellow Wallpaper” goes into vast detail of how treatment of mental illness, and the inequality of women, during that era could cause one to spiral into a state of psychosis. “The Yellow Wallpaper” was written in a time when women were oppressed in their homes as well as in society. “Myths regarding menstruation and women’s reproductive system endorsed and virtually…

    • 1092 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    In the same way, as much paper as the narrator was able to tare off the wall, she was unable to free the woman behind the wallpaper. Gilman protests that by ignoring women 's needs and by prescribing the rest cure, the doctors were only doing more damage to women suffering from hysteria. Gilman finishes the story with a hyperbole. Gilman exaggerates the effects that the rest cure could have on women by having the narrator crawl on the floor from madness. It was a hyperbole for how the rest cure often worsened women 's depression.…

    • 1441 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Superior Essays

    Charlotte Perkins Gilman is the author of a very intriguing story called “The Yellow Wallpaper.” This story is a very haunting and psychological kind of story that gives you a feminist point of view. This story is about a wife who is sick and a husband who is a doctor. He diagnosed her with a mental illness, and tells her she just needs to rest, and she will become better. The husband locks her in an upstairs bedroom, with bars, and with yellow wallpaper. She soon become kind of obsessed and very fascinated with this wallpaper.…

    • 1534 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Great Essays

    The bed is in the nursery where John made the narrator stay, in hopes that she would become cured of her depression and anxiety. She objects to his decision of making her stay in the nursery because of the horrible bed. The narrator tries to convince John to take out the bed and wallpaper, but he refuses. She becomes frustrated with John causing her to try to make the changes to the bed herself and “tried to lift and push it until [she] was lame, and then [she] got so angry [she] bit off a little piece at one corner- but it hurt [her] teeth” (Gilman 217). Charlotte Perkins Gilman uses the symbolism of the bed to express how firm and unyielding the roles for women were yet the narrator still aspires to become more than her role.…

    • 1953 Words
    • 8 Pages
    Great Essays
  • Improved Essays

    The brief story “Yellow Wallpaper” written by Charlotte Perkins-Gilman is a powerful, and complex apologue with several twists and turns. The psychological focus of the story is a female protagonist, who is strongly convinced that she is sick with a nervous condition based on the findings of a physician, and her supposed husband (Gilman 655). This nervous condition seemed to develop into a more serious mental disease that is portrayed by the protagonist visualizing a second woman hiding within the hideous wallpaper, which leaves the reader to consider that the mental health of the woman has deteriorated (Gilman 661). Based on the elaborating plot of the story, the female protagonist is in fact mentally ill (possibly schizophrenic) since…

    • 782 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Superior Essays

    In the short story “The Yellow Wallpaper”, Charlotte Perkins Gilman illustrates the problems with postpartum depression during the year of 1892. Gilman suffered from this condition along with the narrator of her story. As the story progresses the narrators condition worsens; “As she spends more and more time alone in the bedroom with the vile yellow wallpaper, she becomes first depressed and then paranoid, delusional, and violent” (Sledge 445). The “rest cure” was a very popular treatment during this time period for mental illness, but in the narrators case, it made her condition worse. John, the narrators husband, is a physician who is the main reason she does not get healthy.…

    • 1269 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Superior Essays

    Therefore, hysteria in the nineteenth century became a major focus of cultural and medical study. This psychological disorder was considered ““female malady” and was linked to feminine, emotional, irrational, and sexually unrestrained” (Hysteria in the Nineteenth-Century Literature). Emotion plays a big role in hysteria in the nineteenth century when the husband is to blame for women having hysteria. Like in “The Yellow Wallpaper” the narrator starts to have hysteria towards the end of her story. When her husband continues to stick her in her room every time she does something that shows her depression.…

    • 1143 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Improved Essays

    In “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the yellow wallpaper in the narrator’s bedroom is constantly mentioned. She has become sick and depressed as a result of the birth of her child, and the expectations of her as a mother, a wife, and a woman require for her to have the “rest cure” that is eventually her downfall. The wallpaper is an upsetting aspect of the room where she relaxes. At first it seems vaguely disturbing, something the narrator dislikes, but tolerates. However, later in the story, it becomes an inescapable prison within a house that causes her to go insane with isolation, yet that her relatives insist is doing her good.…

    • 966 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays