Incarceration Of “The Yellow Wallpaper”

1190 words - 5 pages

Incarceration of "The Yellow Wallpaper" By Billy Robertson "The Yellow Wallpaper", by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, is a late-nineteenth century story of a new mother suffering from what is called today post-partum depression. Lacking advanced medical knowledge, her physician husband diagnoses her with a nervous disorder and instructs her to abandon her intellectual life and avoid any stimulating activity. Conforming to the social rules of the era, she follows his instructions and sinks deeper into depression and eventually into insanity. Alone in the yellow-wallpapered nursery she finds herself a prisoner of society, a prisoner of her husband, and a prisoner of the yellow-wallpaper. Gilman's unnamed narrator is a woman who is a prisoner of society. She is the proper Victorian woman, loyal to her husband, simple and non-technical. She stumbles over technical words "I take phosphates or phosphites "" whichever it is "" and tonics" (Gilman 119) showing that women are overlooked in education. "There is a delicious garden! I never saw such a garden" (Gilman 119) shows her true place is in the kitchen dealing with household duties. "At that time, the medical profession had not yet distinguished between diseases of the mind and diseases of the physical brain; problems that now would be treated by psychiatrists, such as depression, were treated by neurologists such as Mitchell" (Korb 1). This new mother is suffering from post-partum depression. "The symptoms of depression, fatigue, hysteria, and crying fits -- were thought to stem from the body, and thus were treated through care of the body" (Korb 1). The narrator of this story knows she is not well, and the fact that medical authorities and her husband contradict her self-diagnosis exasperates her. She feels she is required, by society, to surrender to her husband's wishes: "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? ["¦] Personally, I disagree with their ideas. ["¦] I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good. But what is one to do" (Gilman 119)? Restricted by society, being the faithful wife, she does as her husband instructs her and blames herself for being so "unreasonably angry" (Gilman 119).Being the proper Victorian woman, the narrator is a prisoner of her husband, "a "˜physician of high standing' (Gilman 119), a figure of dominance in every sense "" social, domestic, intellectual, [and] physical" (Johnson 523). She tells her husband of her depression, how she feels, but he dismisses it. "You see, he does not believe that I am sick" (Gilman 119). Unable to admit that there might be more to her condition than just stress and a slight nervous disorder, "he prescribes what many Nineteenth-century physicians (including Freud) believed to be the necessary recuperative regimen...

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