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Putting the rest cure to rest: An interpretive essay on "The Yellow Wallpaper"

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  1. Introduction
  2. The Yellow Wallpaper: Based on Gilman's personal experience
  3. The real Weir Mitchell Rest Cure
  4. Gilman's representation of the rest cure
  5. Conclusion

Since its publication in 1892, The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, has generated a variety of interpretations. Originally viewed to be a ghost story, it has been regarded as Gothic literature, science fiction, a statement on postpartum depression, having Victorian patriarchal attitudes and a journey into the depths of mental illness. More controversial, but curiously overlooked is the topic of the ?rest cure' and whether Gilman's associations are fact or fiction. Evidence supports Charlotte Gilman may have misrepresented the Weir Mitchell Rest Cure, and pokes more holes in The Yellow Wallpaper.?

[...] Several feministic essays written after The Yellow Wallpaper, state, as long as ?women are associated with a sublime devotion to home and mothering, they are condemned to a morbid, defective, irregular [and] diseased existence.? Due to Gilman's ongoing criticism about the subservient role women played in a male dominant society, and implications that humanity discouraged women from becoming educated and expressing themselves creatively, public interpretation of the story changed, especially views about the rest cure. After the 1973 reissue, its theme became seen as a ?symptom of the male Victorian medical establishment's desire to reorient [female neurasthenics2 ] to a domestic life.? Mitchell's Rest Cure began to exemplify this standard. [...]


[...] If she wasn't taking journeys through the garden, getting air or exercise, she was apt to be connecting the sprawling outlines or chasing undulating waves of optic horror in the wallpaper, tearing it off the wall or possibly ?creeping.' She was even allowed to entertain little company? on the Fourth of July, something completely contrary to the rest cures isolation therapy. Instead of full- feedings of milk products, she took phosphates, tonics, cod liver oil, say nothing of ale and wine and rare meat.? A major contradiction between the genuine rest cure and the one Gilman depicted is the character had the time, energy and mental capability to manipulate her nurse out of the room throughout most of her recuperation. [...]

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