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How Being A Woman In The Nineteenth Century Could Literally Drive You Crazy: The Protagonist Of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” And

1678 words - 7 pages

Unlike the modern medicine, during the nineteenth century when the story “The yellow wallpaper”, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman takes place postpartum depression was not even considered a viable affliction. As a result Gilman’s unnamed protagonist and narrator, a wife of a doctor named John, suffers unnecessarily with the common illness ultimately plunging into insanity. The lack of understanding in the mental health field at that time is a contributing factor; however it is not the only thing to blame for “Mrs. John’s” downward spiral. Mrs. John herself contributes in her own undoing merely by doing what is expected of her as a subservient woman in that era.
When first introduced to Mrs. John, she is being taken to a colonial mansion her husband John has rented for the summer. Although Mrs. John has been taken there to rest and recover from what seems to be a bout of postpartum depression, she seems to be in relatively high spirits at first. Mrs. John thinks the house is beautiful and delights in imagining that it could be haunted. Mrs. John is confined to a large old nursery that borders on being dilapidated with its gouged floor and the ugly yellow wallpaper peeled off in spots. Mrs. John dislikes the room but seems to feel guilty for complaining about it to John. After John denies Mrs. John her request to fix up the room Mrs. John states, “It is as airy and comfortable a room as anyone need wish, and, I would not be so silly as to make him uncomfortable just for a whim”. (Gilman, 382) Mrs. John loves to write even though it exhausts her. Mrs. John has to hide her writing from John and her sister-in-law Jennie because she is not allowed to write as a condition of her treatment. Mrs. John continues to feel “there is something strange about the house”. (Gilman, 380) Her husband John, a physician, is much more serious and has no time for her fantastic daydreams. Mrs. John believes John is a loving and caring husband, but the fact that John continues to work for the duration of their stay in the mansion suggests that he has taken Mrs. John there to hide her away while she is ill. Mrs. John’s perceived malady may have been an embarrassment for John. Even Mrs. John believes she needs to give John a break from dealing with her stating, “I meant to be a help for John, such a real rest and comfort, and here I am a comparative burden already!”(Gilman, 381) John in fact does not believe that there is really anything wrong with Mrs. John and stays away from her for long periods of time leaving his sister Jennie to care for her. Mrs. John feels some “congenial work, with excitement and change” and “more society and stimulus” would do her good. John believes those things would be the worst thing for Mrs. John. So in being a good wife Mrs. John just goes against her better judgment and follows John’s orders.
As the story progresses you can see the harmful psychological effects of the rest cure unfold in Mrs. John. Mrs. John gradually becomes more...

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