The Yellow Wallpaper
In the grips of depression and the restrictions prescribed by her physician husband a woman struggles with maintaining her sanity and purpose. As a new mother and a writer, and she is denied the responsibility and intellectual stimulation of these elements in her life as part of her rest cure. Her world is reduced to prison-like enforcement on her diet, exercise, sleep and intellectual activities until she is "well again". As she gives in to the restrictions and falls deeper into depression, she focuses on the wallpaper and slides towards insanity. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a story written from a first-person perspective about a young woman's mental deterioration during the 1800's and the adverse affects of the restriction place on her. The setting of the story is a colonial mansion in the country rented for the summer by the narrator's husband while she is treated for her "nervous condition". As the story progresses and the narrator describes her surroundings the setting focuses from the mansion and surrounding gardens to a bedroom in the mansion and finally on the wallpaper in the bedroom. This narrowing focus of the setting directly parallels the narrator's mental deterioration. Gilman's emphasis on the complex symbolism of the wallpaper illustrates the narrator's depression and the adverse affects of limited intellectual activity which, in this case, leads to insanity.
At the beginning of the story, the narrator confides that she may not be well, but she disagrees with the prescribed treatment for her "nervous depression" when she states:
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? (Gilman 531)
Clearly the narrator is opposed to the restrictions placed on her, but feels powerless to do anything about it. During this period (late 1800 -- early 1900's) it was common for physicians to treat depression with the "rest cure" of complete bed rest and limited intellectual activity. Therefore, despite her opposition to the treatment the narrator adheres to the restrictions with the exception of covertly writing in a journal about her feelings, daily routine and the mansion. Her initial focus is on the mansion, the surrounding gardens and the bedroom chosen for her during her stay.
When her focus eventually settles on the wallpaper in the bedroom and she states, "I never saw a worse paper in my life. One of those sprawling, flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin" (Gilman 260). As the narrator resigns herself to her intellectual confinement, she begins to see more details in the wallpaper pattern. This can be seen as the slow shift from the connection to her family,...