October 12, 2014
The Ins and Outs of the Yellow Wallpaper
In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s, The Yellow Wallpaper, the narrator and her physician husband, John, rent a mansion for the summer so that she can have some peace because her “temporary nervous depression” calls for her to use the “rest cure” treatment. For most, this might’ve seen very relaxing. For the narrator however, the house was all but relaxing for her. Although the house was beautiful, she was only limited to one room by her husband, the nursery. It wasn’t the nursery though, it was the hideous yellow wallpaper that single handedly took the narrator’s case of nervous depression and changed it into complete insanity. The reason the author wrote this was because in 1887, she went to see a specialist in the hopes of curing her ever so frequent nervous breakdowns. The specialist recommended a “rest cure,” which consisted of lying in bed all day and engaging in intellectual activity for only two hours a day. Gilman says that after three months, she was “near the borderline of utter mental ruin.” This goes to show how “rest cure” is not an effective way to deal with people who have mental problems. In Gilman’s, The Yellow Wallpaper, the narrator illustrates her importance for writing, her descent into madness, and her need for freedom and within herself and from her husband.
The importance of writing is evident in this story from the very beginning because it is written in a first-person perspective, so it’s like the reader is reading her journal entries. The narrator then goes on to tell us how she’s not even supposed to be writing but she has to for some type of release. “I did write for a while in spite of them; but it DOES exhaust me a good deal—having to be so sly about it, or else meet with heavy opposition.” Even though she writes to keep her emotions from bottling up, it still doesn’t work out in her favor. It stresses her out having to hide the fact that she is writing from her husband and brother, who is also a physician, since she’s “forbidden” from doing any work that requires too much stress on her mind. The narrator was able to express her vibrant imagination about the wall in her writings since no one else wanted to talk to her about it. Even though writing for her seemed to be a healthy and productive outlet, being for to repress her imagination and hide it from the world in her writings might’ve been the exact thing that leads her to madness.
Secondly, the narrator slowly dwindles down into madness the longer she spends in the room. It seems as if the longer she sits in the room, the more her imagination grows and the more her mind starts to play tricks on her about the wallpaper. For example, she states, “The front pattern DOES move—and no wonder! The woman behind shakes it!... I didn't realize for a long time what the thing was that showed behind, that dim sub-pattern, but now I am quite sure it is a woman.” The narrator is under the impression that the paper is moving during the nighttime and she is convinced that there is a woman who is trapped behind the paper that is causing the movement. This is where it’s evident that the narrator is starting to lose her sanity because we know that there is no way a lady can be trapped inside of wallpaper. She can’t wrap her mind around what reality is anymore because she trapped in this one room, away from the world.
Lastly, the narrator’s freedom is the most important part of the story. She always talks about being limited to one room in the large mansion by her husband, even when he has to