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Shadows Of Insanity A Review Of Charlotte Perkins Gillman's 'the Yellow Wall Paper

970 words - 4 pages

In Charlotte Perkins Gilman's short story The Yellow Wall-paper one sees a first hand battle with nervous anxiety, depression, and a woman's fight for sanity as she adheres to ill advice from her doctor who is also her husband. The story examines a lady, possibly Gilman herself, imprisoned in drab surroundings, no intellectual stimulation outside of short, belittling talks with her husband, and patronizing guidance from her husband and doctor.One may assume that a person with nervous tension and symptoms of depression would be more suited to an environment where he or she would feel comfortable. Almost immediately she feels uncomfortable and describes the house as "haunted" and she sensed an eerie feeling of the estate. When she mentioned this to John one night before bed, he declared it "was a draught, and shut the window"(657-8). There were mysterious circumstances in the air. Why was the bed bolted down to the floor? Why did the room feel so empty and desolate? One would get the sense Gilman and her husband were imprisoned in a mental asylum instead of vacationing in a relaxing summer cottage. She goes on to describe the yellow wallpaper, which hideously decorated the wall in her immediate front view. Since she in not allowed any intellectual stimulus, she begins using the wallpaper as a means of reflection, forming delusional ideas of symmetry and a pattern. When describing the wallpaper, at one point Gilman notes, "two bulbous eyes stare at you upside down" (660). This passage would show first signs of mental collapse through hallucinations and slight tendencies toward paranoia. Gilman reflects, "Life is very much more exciting now than it used to be. You see I have something more to expect, to look forward to, to watch. I really do eat better and am more quiet than I was"(665). John assumed that her condition was improving but as one would eventually see, her condition was only getting worse. Gilman is replacing her sane reality with the fictional and mysterious reality of the wallpaper. She is possibly viewing herself and problems as through the wallpaper itself.During this time period circa 1900, very little importance was given to women and their "hysterical tendencies". A reference to Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, the infamous doctor of neurological disorders during that time period, prescribed what he called the "rest cure" where patients get as much rest as a body can possibly handle and little or no intellectual stimulation. Beliefs that women were prone to these types of hysteria were thought to be natural and unworthy of real treatment. Gilman states, "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"(658)? The feeling of...

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