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Madness Essay

1281 words - 6 pages

Madness is the psychological state of someone who has severe emotional or behavioral problems that require intervention. It is the spectrum of behavior characterized by mental or behavioral patterns deemed abnormal by societal norms, manifesting as violations of acceptable actions, roles, and beliefs of society. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman centers on the deteriorating mental condition of the female narrator. Gilman demonstrates the progression of her madness through the restriction of her self-expression. As a woman in the 19th century, the narrator exists in a subservient role to her husband and has inferior social status to men. Her social standing dictates that she is not allowed to participate in her own treatment or diagnosis and is completely forced to succumb to everything in which her doctor, who is her husband, dictates. This lack of control contributes to her descent into madness. The rest cure prescribed by her physician husband provided the environment for her madness to flourish because it was only by succumbing to her imagination that she retains some control and could exercise the power of her mind.
Her husband John is displayed as the strong, practical, and stereotypically masculine who dominates the narrator in a controlling and patronizing manner. He is skeptical of her condition, diagnosing her sickness as merely nervousness and prescribes the rest cure as treatment. She is certain that she needs the opposite of the rest cure; that is, activity and mental stimulation instead of forced bed rest and excessive eating. However, the authoritative voices of her family, her husband, and the medical industry press the narrator to be passive as dictated by the rest cure.. After all, “If a physician of high standing, and one's own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression -- a slight hysterical tendency -- what is one to do?” (Gilman 1). While the narrator personally disagrees with her husband and the accepted medical treatment for her sickness, she does not have the power to influence or change her situation. Her suggestion of treatment, writing, talking, and congenial work, is dismissed by John because he believes self-expression will reverse the progress she has made since starting the resting cure.
Nonetheless, writing serves as her only outlet to express her concerns and feelings without fear of the reprimand and disproval she would receive for questioning the societal norm of using the rest cure to treat nervousness. However, the rest cure prohibits any form of creative activity since it is detrimental to the patient’s recovery, and John forbids the narrator from writing. She is forced to hide her writing, which frustrates her more. “I did write for a while in spite of them; but it does exhaust me a good deal—having to be so sly about it, or else meet with heavy opposition” (Gilman 1). The choppy rhythm of the sentence structure,...

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