Madness and sickness in female writings Essay

Submitted By aulpha
Words: 1969
Pages: 8

In her short story, The Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte Gilman offers her reader an inlet into the stream of consciousness of a woman who experiences a mental breakdown as she recognizes herself in her bedroom’s wallpaper and fails to connect between her imagination and longing for freedom and her real world. The story starts with the woman admitting her mental disturbance. She introduces the different agents governing her life and gives insight into the core of her mental unrest. After giving birth, she moves with her family to a house in the countryside where she is supposed to help herself out of the her “temporary nervous depression” (1) by using “[her] will and self-control and not let[ting] any silly fancies run away with [her]” (8). However, this therapy- suggested by her husband- proved to be ineffective. Not taken seriously and not allowed to speak out her inner feelings and thoughts, she ends up musing over the wallpaper in her bedroom which gradually acquires sustenance. It is her husband’s treatment of her and the way he deals with her situation is what will let those silly fancies, as he terms her thoughts, get hold of her. Not giving too much interest in her situation, John exerts pressure on her by claiming that she is the one responsible for what she is going through. She is compelled to confirm to her husband and her brother’s bare diagnosis and go through their suggested treatment, which requires a great deal of stagnation, passivity, and subservience. This atmosphere has become suffocating for her; that is why, she turns secretly to writing which has “a vicious influence” on her (5) but which helped her get an understanding of what she wants to be. This is clearly stated in her weak attempts to make her husband understand her situation the way she takes it. Actually, there is much likelihood between her and that wallpaper with which she intuitively develops an ontological link. Glued to the bedroom wall, the wallpaper is so like her. She feels stranded and unable to go out of that bedroom because her husband refused to change. Yellow and pale because of the sun’s effect on it, she is pale too because of the lack of understanding she suffers from. It is “stripped- off […] in great patches all around the head of [her] bed […], and in great place on the other side of the room low down” (3). She is disorderly too and is torn deep inside, since she has given birth recently and is struggling to overcome the emotional disturbance. As she reflects on this wallpaper, she realizes the similarity it bears with her. She is stuck to that room and is used up by “boys’ school” (3). In other words, she sees herself as being objectified by her husband who considers himself to be more knowledgeable than her in matters closely and restrictively related to her well-being. The wallpaper stands for her outward self, the person that her entourage accepts to interact with. This self is ragged and she hates it. When she is alone, she imagines how she would step out of that torturing socially- dictated pattern. The pattern in that wallpaper is society. It is horrid and stifling. For her, this society is hard to fit into and to confirm to its dictates, for “you think you have mastered it, but just as you get well underway in following, it turns a back- somersault and there you are. It slaps you in the face, knocks you down, and tramples upon you. It is like a bad dream” (9). The woman she starts to recognize in the sub- pattern is her. She is fighting with that pattern. She imagines she can break it off, but the pattern is so sturdy “nobody could climb through that pattern- it strangles so” (12). From her account, it is clear that the woman’s illness is not as described by her husband. Her mental unrest is due to the fact that she is unable to take action and subvert the image and the rules imposed by her society. Living in two discrepant worlds, in one of them she is objectified and stagnant, in the other she tries