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The Yellow Wallpaper, Charlote Perkings Gilman

1344 words - 5 pages

In the story "The Yellow Wallpaper," it is clear that women's thoughts and feelings were not held in high regard at the turn of the century. It is known that before the turn of the century, men thought women to be inferior to them and there are multiple examples of this in this text. Also during this time, not much was known about mental illness nor how to properly treat it. Most people were afraid that mental illness was contagious so they would throw people in insane asylums. Mental illness was looked down upon so fiercely that many wealthy families disposed of mentally ill family members in these asylums. Charlotte Perkins Gilman defeats the patriarchal culture, by her story's lead character questioning her husband's expertise as a doctor, since her symptoms are getting worse. The story is loosely based on an event that actually happened in the author's life and the characters represent herself and her family.
It is obvious when reading this story that women were thought to be inferior at the turn of the century. There are several examples throughout the story that show John, a representation of her ex-husband Charles, talking down to her and discarding her thoughts and feelings before she ever finished stating them. In fact, every time she tries to let her husband know how she feels and what she wants to do, he immediately cuts her off or comes up with an excuse as to why she cannot do something or should not feel a particular way. Her husband is trying to control her thoughts, her feelings, and what she can and cannot do, which contributes greatly to her being depressed. Men during this time liked their women to stay quiet. There is a line in the story where Gilman states her lead character is eating more and staying quiet about her thoughts and feelings, in which she states that her husband "John is pleased to see me improve" (Gilman). The fact that the character's husband does not want her to work or do anything but rest is a loose example that men of high social status did not think their women should work, especially outside of the household. "Convinced that middle-class women were enslaved by "masculinist" ideas and a cult of domesticity, Charlotte Perkins Gilman crusaded her entire life for liberation from housework and child care and for increased opportunities for meaningful work for women" (Gilman).
At the turn of the century, there was not much known about mental illness. Nor was there much know about exactly what caused them and how best to treat people with these illnesses. The term psychology was not even known at this point in time. The character in the story suffers from extreme depression not long after her baby is born, so her husband who is a physician believes she is just suffering from nervousness and should rest more. It is now known that the author, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, "plunged into a depression that continued for three years" after the birth of her daughter (Gilman). The illness that she suffered from now goes...

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