So I decided to share my essays I wrote in Highschool. Enjoy owlnerds! 🙂
On July 3, 1860, in Hartford, Connecticut, Charlotte Perkins Gilman was born. Her father, Frederick Beecher Perkins was related to Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. She struggled during her childhood for her father had abandoned her. Her mother moved a great deal which resulted in very little education for Charlotte. In 1844, Charlotte married an artist named Charles Stetson. During her marriage, Charlotte had a period of depression resulting in treatments that inspired her to write The Yellow Wallpaper. In this short essay, we will look at The Yellow Wallpaper and see the different ideas seen throughout the story.
In The Yellow Wallpaper, Gilman describes the protagonist as a woman who is imprisoned by her husband, John. John diagnosed his wife with depression after giving birth to her firstborn. She is placed into the estate of solitary confinement. Solitary confinement is when a patient is isolated away from society. The patient is not allowed to work, have special treatments, or do anything outside the doctor’s orders. They are usually locked up in a room or in their own home. Confinement has its uses but it can have dangerous effects on both the physical and mental aspect of the patient.
John believes isolation is the best way to cure his wife’s depression but his wife begins to see things. As she continuously stays in the room with yellow wallpaper, she believes that there is a woman trapped behind the wall. The room itself doesn’t help either. The bed is nailed to the ground and there are bars across the window. The woman must feel as if she is trapped in a prison. One of the ironic things we see is that the protagonist hides the true fact of her illness. “I am glad my case is not serious” (American Short Stories 117). John even becomes sarcastic by stating, “We will ask Cousin Henry and Julia down for a long visit, but he says he would as soon put fireworks in my pillow-case as to let me have those stimulating people about now”(119). He knows that his wife has begun her journey to insanity and may believe that social interaction might make it worse.
We also see that the protagonist is forbidden to write down her thoughts in a journal. The journal shows the true nature of the protagonist. We can see that through the protagonist’s thoughts, she has a dual personality. Her husband believes that she is becoming mad from her depression and that she shouldn’t write all her thoughts down. She has finally spiraled downward into the last stage of madness. “I got out, at last, said I, in spite of you and Jane. And I pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back”(129).
In this story, we see that the main themes are mental illness, isolation, postpartum depression, husbands’ and wives’ roles in society, and a doctor that doesn’t know how to treat his patient correctly. Gilman during her time period didn’t write like Jack London or Flannery O’Connor. She writes like she was raised in the Romantic and Gothic period. At the beginning of the story, we can see the very signs of Gothicism. “A colonial mansion, a hereditary estate, I would say a haunted house, and reach the height of romantic felicity- but that would be asking too much of a fate” (115). In this situation, I personally think that isolating people that are mentally ill will only cause more madness.