Confinement: "The Yellow Wallpaper"

1190 words - 5 pages

The realistic period is during that of the Civil War and Reconstruction, from 1855 to 1914. Realism shies away from the Romantic period; there is no specific way of interpreting a story. Instead, readers are given creative accountability and allowed the opportunity to construct an ending from the information that is given to them. Opposing Romantic elements, Realism describes reality bluntly and objectively. It strives to depict everyday characters to draw in readers through their ability to see themselves through the text. During the time of 1892, the realistic period existed for approximately thirty-seven years. At this time, Charlotte Perkin Gilman’s “The Yellow Wall-paper” was written. The story seems to twist Realism’s depiction of everyday characters by having readers connect with the mental instability of the narrator. Gilman’s “The Yellow Wall-paper” depicts the oppression faced by women of the nineteenth century through the expression of a psychiatric breakdown that resulted from the protagonist’s social, physical, and mental entrapment.
In the nineteenth century, those who suffered with depression, anxiety, excitability, and/or inexplicable somatic complaints were diagnosed with hysteria. Hysteria occurred when there was a medical problem with no physical causation. Because hysteria occurred primarily in women, it was assumed to be restricted as a feminine predicament. In earlier centuries, the uterus was supposed as the cause of a woman’s mental or emotional stress. The word hysteria derives from the Greek word, hysteron, meaning uterus. When a woman experienced hysteria, it was due to her “wandering uterus.” In order for the female patient to be rehabilitated, she must be treated sympathetically in a restful and hygienic environment while being given sufficient bed rest, a healthy diet, and moderate exercise. In “The Yellow Wall-paper,” the narrator and her husband, John, travel to a queer, secluded area so that the narrator can overcome her temporary nervous depression. The narrator’s mental illness surpasses that of a “hysterical tendency,” yet her husband never recognizes her illness as an authentic disorder. The over-generalized conception of hysteria and its mediocre treatments are a prime example of the evident patriarchy during this time. Anything concerning emotions or considered feminine was demeaned. Mental instability was not considered a true sickness because it lacked corporeal impairment.
The confinement that psychiatrists used as a treatment for hysteria stimulates the narrator’s mental unpredictability. From the moment John and the narrator approach the house, the narrator’s future is somewhat foreshadowed. The house acts as a mental trigger, from the queer nature of the property to the shade of yellow set upon the bedroom wall. The bedroom seems to be a representation of the narrator’s mind. Like the walls, there are parts of her brain that are “stripped off” or not as efficiently functioning due to what the...

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