But way back in , Charlotte Perkins Gilman went to see a specialist in the hope of curing her recurring nervous breakdowns. The specialist recommended a "rest cure," which consisted of lying in bed all day and engaging in intellectual activity for only two hours a day. After three months, Gilman says, she was "near the borderline of utter mental ruin. For the first decades of its life, "The Yellow Wallpaper" was read as a piece of horror fiction firmly situated in the Gothic genre.
And we're not terribly shocked by this: But according to Gilman, the short story was never intended as a Gothic horror, but rather as a cautionary tale about what supposed "rest cures" could do to the mental stability of patients. She sent a copy to the physician who had recommended a rest cure, and he subsequently changed his medical practices.
It was not intended to drive people crazy, but to save people from being driven crazy, and it worked. It's easy to read "The Yellow Wallpaper" and feel a little smug. After all, you're living in the 21st Century. Thing like leaving a someone alone for most of the day without any mental stimulation just doesn't happen these days, right? And if it does, it's certainly not done in someone's best interest, right?
Um, the answer is "yes" and "no. The narrator of "The Yellow Wallpaper" spends a summer languishing mostly alone on a bed nailed down to the floor. And she does this on the orders of a well-meaning husband and a well-meaning doctor who, um, happen to be the same man. Being essentially locked into a room with nothing to do was seen as the very best treatment against mental illness. And, as we see in this story, the treatment actually made its patients more unstable, not less.
And even though the "rest cure" has gone the way of the velociraptor good riddance , there's still a cousin of the rest cure being used around the country, even today.
We're talking about solitary confinement in prisons. Like in "The Yellow Wallpaper," prison solitary confinement is supposed to be good for the inmate. It's supposed to "foster personal redemption through habits of meditation and penitence" but it ends up "irreparably harming the human psyche. Lanser, a professor at Brandeis University, praises contemporary feminism and its role in changing the study and the interpretation of literature.
Critics such as the editor of the Atlantic Monthly rejected the short story because "[he] could not forgive [himself] if [he] made others as miserable as [he] made [himself]. Lanser argues that the short story was a "particularly congenial medium for such a re-vision. At first she focuses on contradictory style of the wallpaper: She takes into account the patterns and tries to geometrically organize them, but she is further confused.
The wallpaper changes colors when it reflects light and emits a distinct odor which the protagonist cannot recognize p. At night the narrator is able to see a woman behind bars within the complex design of the wallpaper. Lanser argues that the unnamed woman was able to find "a space of text on which she can locate whatever self-projection".
Feminists have made a great contribution to the study of literature but, according to Lanser, are falling short because if "we acknowledge the participation of women writers and readers in dominant patterns of thought and social practice then perhaps our own patterns must also be deconstructed if we are to recover meanings still hidden or overlooked. Cutter discusses how in many of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's works she addresses this "struggle in which a male-dominated medical establishment attempts to silence women.
In this time period it was thought that "hysteria" a disease stereotypically more common in women was a result of too much education. It was understood that women who spent time in college or studying were over-stimulating their brains and consequently leading themselves into states of hysteria. In fact, many of the diseases recognized in women were seen as the result of a lack of self-control or self-rule. Different physicians argued that a physician must "assume a tone of authority" and that the idea of a "cured" woman is one who is "subdued, docile, silent, and above all subject to the will and voice of the physician".
Often women were prescribed bed rest as a form of treatment, which was meant to "tame" them and basically keep them imprisoned. Treatments such as this were a way of ridding women of rebelliousness and forcing them to conform to expected social roles. In her works Gilman, highlights that the harm caused by these types of treatments for woman i.
Paula Treichler explains "In this story diagnosis 'is powerful and public. It is a male voice that. The male voice is the one in which forces controls on the female and decides how she is allowed to perceive and speak about the world around her. It may be a ghost story. Worse yet, it may not. Lovecraft writes in his essay Supernatural Horror in Literature that "'The Yellow Wall Paper' rises to a classic level in subtly delineating the madness which crawls over a woman dwelling in the hideously papered room where a madwoman was once confined.
Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz, in her book Wild Unrest: Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the Making of "The Yellow Wall-Paper" , concludes that "the story was a cri de coeur against [Gilman's first husband, artist Charles Walter] Stetson and the traditional marriage he had demanded. Anglican Archbishop Peter Carnley used the story as a reference and a metaphor for the situation of women in the church in his sermon at the ordination of the first women priests in Australia on 7 March in St George's Cathedral, Perth.
In another interpretation, Sari Edelstein has argued that "The Yellow Wallpaper" is an allegory for Gilman's hatred of the emerging yellow journalism. Having created The Forerunner in November , Gilman made it clear she wished the press to be more insightful and not rely upon exaggerated stories and flashy headlines.
Gilman was often scandalized in the media and resented the sensationalism of the media. The relationship between the narrator and the wallpaper within the story parallels Gilman's relationship to the press. The protagonist describes the wallpaper as having "sprawling flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin". Treichler's article "Escaping the Sentence: Diagnosis and Discourse in 'The Yellow Wallpaper'", she places her focus on the relationship portrayed in the short story between women and writing.
Rather than write about the feminist themes which view the wallpaper as something along the lines of ". Treichler illustrates that through this discussion of language and writing, in the story Charlotte Perkins Gilman is defying the ". This is supported in the fact that John, the narrator's husband, does not like his wife to write anything, which is the reason her journal containing the story is kept a secret and thus is known only by the narrator and reader. A look at the text shows that as the relationship between the narrator and the wallpaper grows stronger, so too does her language in her journal as she begins to increasingly write of her frustration and desperation.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. The New England Magazine. Descent and Return in The Yellow Wallpaper". ProQuest Research Library online, Oct. October 4, , p. Archived from the original on 30 Aug Retrieved 30 August Retrieved 1 September Charlotte Perkins Gilman Society. Archived from the original on A Company of Players. Retrieved 12 October Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature. The Omnibus of 20th Century Ghost Stories. Carrol and Graf Publishers Inc.
The Yellow Wallpaper ed. Johnson, Greg Fall Rage and Redemption in The Yellow Wallpaper". Studies in Short Fiction. Archived from the original on October 3,
The color is repellant, almost revolt ing ; a smouldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sun light. It is a dull yet lurid orange in some.
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A summary of Themes in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper. Learn exactly what happened in this chapter, scene, or section of The Yellow Wallpaper and what it means. Perfect for acing essays, tests, and . Use our free chapter-by-chapter summary and analysis of The Yellow Wallpaper. It helps middle and high school students understand Charlotte Perkins .
“The Yellow Wallpaper” is an exaggerated account of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s personal experiences. In , shortly after the birth of her daughter, Gilman began to suffer from serious depression and fatigue. She was referred to Silas Weir Mitchell, a leading specialist in women’s nervous. Complete summary of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper. eNotes plot summaries cover all the significant action of The Yellow Wallpaper.