Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper, written in 1892, was originally published as a work of Gothic fiction. Through a biographical analysis and the author's own admission we now know that the story contains many real elements drawn from the author's own experiences with postpartum depression and the mistreatment of it, and the story is now viewed by many as an important early piece of Feminist literature.
[...] While Gilman would have her audience believe that the story was simply fiction “with a purpose,” it is easy to see also how it was therapeutic on a personal level, not only in coming to terms with her postpartum depression but with how it was mistreated and how she might also have played a small part in lengthening and exacerbating it by not trusting her own judgment more by abandoning her misguided prescription sooner. Whether reading a Gilman biography or her own autobiographical interviews like the one published in The Forerunner in 1913, it is easy to see how her early experiences with postpartum depression not only inspired one of her first and most influential works - Yellow Wallpaper” - but also caused her to question 19th century medicine, male authority, and social norms as a whole. [...]
[...] And indeed, Gilman seemed to have exorcised many of the residual demons from her own mistreatment in writing Yellow Wallpaper." Of course the idea of engaging in an exercise as intellectually demanding as writing was patently against Dr. S. Weir Mitchell's rest cure program, which in her own words limited Gilman to "but two hours' intellectual life a day," and directed her to "never . touch pen, brush or pencil again as long as I lived" (Gilman 19). Mitchell's rest cure was used as a blanket treatment for hundreds of female patients displaying a wide array of symptoms that today's doctors would likely consider unrelated some having root in physical ailments and others, like Gilman's postpartum depression, being a combination of hormonal imbalance and emotional distress. [...]
[...] There can be no contesting that Gilman's mental illness shook her so deeply and shaped her mind so thoroughly that those experiences would color not only the tone and themes of Yellow Wallpaper” but of her entire body of written work. Works cited AkSehir, Mahinur. "Reading 'The Yellow Wallpaper' as Post-Traumatic Writing." Interactions: Ege University Journal of British and American Studies/Ege Universitiesi Ingiliz ve Amerikan Icelemeleri Dergisi 17 (2008): 1-10. Gilman, [...]
[...] In his criticism of Yellow Wallpaper,” he ascribes both Gilman and her narrator's mental illness not to postpartum depression or even nervousness as Mitchell did, but to suppressed anger and rage at their social subjugation. Gilman herself responded to such claims by insisting that she wrote the story as a precautionary tale to both women and their physicians, and more specifically as an after-the-fact response to her own failed rest treatment, as prescribed by Silas Weir Mitchell (Gilman 19). In response to arguments that Gilman suffered from a self-inflicted psychosis and not postpartum depression, Gilman repeatedly clarified that the narrator's eventual psychosis was not a direct portrayal of Gilman's own symptoms, but was an exaggeration of her state used to create a more effective parable. [...]
[...] It is at this point in the story that Gilman's narrator directly references Weir Mitchell, making it clear to the reader that the treatment she is receiving is in line with his popular rest cure, and even briefly deriding it via a subtle reference to friend.” With nothing to distract her from the irrational and unsettling feelings common to postpartum depression, and nothing to help her to work through them, the narrator's condition worsens, and she allows her mental illness to consume her. [...]
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