“The Yellow Wallpaper,” was written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman a nineteenth-century feminist based upon her own personal experience with a medical treatment called “rest cure.” The “rest cure” was a true prescription written for only women suffering from the mental illness at the time known as “neurasthenia.” In this short story, Gilman introduces a nameless narrator who has been diagnosed with temporary nervous depression. Due to her physician, John who also happens to be her husband, he seeks all authority over her. The narrator feels powerless due to not having control of her own life and being put in a childish state as a cure for her depression. The Nameless Woman struggles with her controlling marriage, her treatment for her depression and begins to find self-expression.
It is obvious that John has complete control of his wife’s life. He organizes every detail of her day and monitors her exceptionally careful, as if she is a child. Within the text, he refers to his wife as ...view middle of the document...
This is part of the Nameless Woman’s mental struggle which adds to her unhappiness. She refers to “her condition” which becomes a symbolic image because she reminds herself of her depression and unhappy marriage.
Longing for mental stimulation and self-expression, the Nameless Woman is struggling with the treatment John has placed upon her. Forced to be without imaginative thoughts and expressions for a woman like the Nameless Woman, can only lead to self-destruction. Forbidden to use her mind, she expresses her thoughts,
“So I take phosphates or phosphites--whichever it is, and tonics, and journeys, and air, and exercise, and am absolutely forbidden to "work" until I am well again. Personally, I disagree with their ideas. Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good. But what is one to do?”(cite).
She feels forced into a child-like and even lifeless stage. She begins to share about her secret journal keeping,
“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. I sometimes fancy that in my condition if I had less opposition and more society and stimulus--but John says the very worst thing I can do is to think about my condition, and I confess it always makes me feel bad. So I will let it alone and talk about the house” (Cite).
John warned her several times that she must control her imagination and that writing was strictly off limits. The Nameless Lady expresses later that writing offered more “relief to her mind” than the treatment because she was able to express herself for a moment.
The colonial mansion, which the couple had just moved into, is crucial to the Nameless Woman’s self-expression. She stated that the house was “haunted” and “queer”. John assigned her the old nursery bedroom in the upstairs portion of the house, where she found an “immovable bed” and “barred windows”. In the nursery, the sickly colored yellow wallpaper becomes the Nameless Woman’s imaginary canvas, which is where she can express her artistic views. The narrator expresses, “There are things in the wallpaper that nobody knows about but me, or ever will.” (CITE). She begins to find a woman within the yellow wallpaper, who is trapped and who she cannot free. This woman within the wallpaper is a mirrored image of herself.