The Mentally Ill: 19th Century vs Today Essay

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The Mentally Ill: 19th Century v. Today
After initially reading Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, the reader tends to trust the narrator’s judgment. However, when one explores beyond the literal meaning of the text, they find that the narrator’s “temporary nervous depression” has distorted her sense of reality. It is the reader’s duty to separate fact from fiction in the story. Once the reader has separated the two, the story’s underlying message, regarding the issue of mental illness in the 19th century, becomes apparent. By examining this story and various studies pertaining to mental illness, one can conclude that, treatments, living conditions, and perceptions of the mentally ill have improved drastically since the
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Later in the story, the author mentions that the property has a garden. Gardens were very common in 19th century mental hospitals. They were a big part of moral treatment, because they made the hospital feel more home like (Johnson). The “gardeners and people” the narrator describes are likely the patients that garden and live at the hospital. The narrator later states that the house is, “standing well back from the road, quite three miles from the village.” This further separates the area from the rest of society making it more desolate and less likely for patients to achieve escape (Gilman).
The innards of the house only reinforce the fact that the building is a hospital. The narrator describes her room by stating, “There was only one window and not room for two beds, and no near room for him [John] if he took another (Gilman).” By her description, the room seems very solitary, as if the person residing in it needs to be separate from the world. The space also further separates John and the narrator, both geographically and emotionally. The fact that they do not share a room is a hint to the reader. The two are not a couple, like the narrator claims, but rather a just doctor and patient.
Her second description of the room is even more ominous, “It was a nursery first and then playroom and gymnasium, I should judge; for the windows are barred for little children, and there are rings and things in the walls (Gilman).” The fact that the…

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