Analysis of “The Yellow Wallpaper”
Written in the 19th century, the short story titled “The Yellow Wallpaper,” by Charlotte Perkins Stetson highlights how a mentally disturbed and misunderstood woman’s condition degenerated into madness while under the care of her busy but caring husband. The story brings out pertinent issues in the care and treatment of mentally ill female patients during the 19th century. In a bid to comprehend the article thoroughly, the paper analyses the historical background of the short story examines how isolation affects people suffering from depression, and the role played by the wallpaper in worsening the condition of the woman in the story. The essay also analyses the treatment procedure of the mentally ill in the 19th century and discusses how mental illness affects relationships. The paper holds the premise that the narrator opted to suffer in silence due to the insensitivity of her husband and caregiver.
A look at the past life of Charlotte Perkin turns up some interesting bit of information that aids in understanding the short story. According to O’Connor-Salomon, Charlotte Perkins life was plagued with psychological issues that might have originated before her first marriage (251). O’Connor-Salomon narrates that Weir Mitchell could not conclusively treat Charlotte’s mental illness. Weir Mitchell was a famous shrink recognized for his work in hysteria and mentioned in “The Yellow Wallpaper” as the doctor that her husband threatens to take her to see if her condition did not improve. In the analysis of Charlotte Perkins work and previous writings, O’Connor-Salomon found out that Charlotte considered herself a man and had no desire for marriage unless if she was the one marrying the man. Just like the narrator in the story, Charlotte Perkins married a doctor and suffered from mental illness. The analysis by O’ Connor- Salomon also indicated that the problems expressed by the author of the Yellow Wallpaper were recollections of her life and the challenges she had encountered over time. O’Connor-Salomon further observed that Charlotte Perkin tried to run away from her real personality and ended up blocking her feelings so that she could get married to her second husband. It appears that Charlotte was living a life of self-denial but placing the blame on her husband so that she could not reveal her true self.
Reading the short story, one gets the idea that the role of women in the 19th century was to be both a wife and a mother. Stetson mentions that the narrator had a child who she could not take care of due to her mental state (649). The situation made the narrator believe that she was failing in her wifely and motherly duties, as she could not play her roles efficiently. The narrator’s mental illness meant that she had to spend most of her time resting leaving the role of maintaining the house and raising the baby to her husband’s sister. The speaker resented being kept away from her duties around the house and devised other ways to keep her mind occupied.
According to Tasca et al., women with depression in the 19th century were assumed to suffer from hysteria (1). The women were subjected to a battery of tests including a close examination of their history and past experiences. Doctors then, preferred hypnosis as the appropriate treatment for the illness. Tasca et al. reported that in some cases, mentally ill women were given smelling salts, which could enable them to suppress their emotions. Physicians believed that depression occurred when an individual is bothered by a forgotten, hurtful happening in their past. Furthermore, some psychologist believed that mental illness in women was linked to confusion regarding their sexual orientation and procreation. As noted by O’Connor-Salomon, the author of the yellow wallpaper was besieged with feelings of being a man trapped in a woman’s body and might have used the short story to express her feelings and desires.
The environment within which individual lives can worsen the mental illness. According to Stetson, the narrator felt that she was trapped in their bedroom such that she started noticing strange movements on the yellow wallpaper in the room (647). The narrator thought that she was isolated from the rest of the people as she spent most of her time alone whenever her husband left for work. Stetson observes that loneliness got into the narrator such that she started imagining seeing a woman sneaking across their lawn during the day or saw images committing suicide on the wallpaper in their bedroom (648). The narrator appears to have contemplated suicide so that she could escape from the harsh realities of mental illness. The window in her room was reinforced with metal bars to prevent her from harming herself. Furthermore, the bed in her room was immovable, an indicator that she was not free to do as she wished. Scott, writing a review of the short story, noted that the narrator was getting affected by her surroundings, and that her mental state was deteriorating (1). The fact that the speaker was required to rest to facilitate healing also made her idle and some of the images that she saw were conjured up by her mind. The speaker in the short story explains that her husband though caring did not notice that she was suffering in silence (649). Furthermore, the speaker felt that her husband was too busy with his career and always downplayed her concerns. The behavior displayed by the narrator is an indication that isolation has adverse effects on an individual suffering from depression.
The yellow color in their room irritated the narrator, and she expressed her displeasure with it using words like, “revolting and unclean” (649). The narrator’s vivid description of the wallpaper in the room, especially the color, is an indication that color had negative effect on the narrator. Over the course of time, the narrator gets used to the color but soon after, her behavior started changing arousing suspicion from the other inhabitants in the house. The narrator resigns to fate and accepts the yellow wallpaper in their room by studying it carefully and watched the intricate designs of the wallpaper come to live in her mind. Scott explained that since the speaker in the story was idle, she busied herself with studying the wallpaper in detail to satisfy her curiosity. The cause of her behavior is the effect that yellow color arouses in her subconscious mind. Research by Eliot found that yellow color causes exhilaration, forceful actions, and active mental processes (1). The narrator’s behavior to keenly study the wallpaper can be construed to mean that she was getting excited while the act of tearing the wallpaper can be taken to suggest that the yellow color was causing her to engage in violent deeds. Furthermore, after the narrator overcoming the distaste for the yellow color, she felt that she was getting better due to her newfound energy.
Surprisingly, her husband, who was a doctor, saw nothing wrong with her change of behavior, as he believed that she was finally healing. In several instances, Stetson brings out the failings of men in the society to get close to their partners in order to understand their feelings. According to Duneer, the narrators husband, though caring, failed to provide emotional support to his wife as he treated her like a daughter and not a wife and had developed a habit of overruling her wishes (34). Duneer further observed that the narrator defied her husband on several occasions as she considered was lonely and ended up thinking about her condition all the time. In the end, her husband was shocked to note that she had finally lost her mind and locked herself in the room. The move illustrates that mentally ill people could do anything to escape the torture that the condition puts them through and hence need the support of family to pull through.
The deteriorating condition of her mental illness put a strain on the narrator’s relationship with her husband, sister-in-law, and her son. The narrator could not raise up her child without help due to her ill health. At some point in time, she locked herself in her room opting to dispose of the key in the process. Scott noted that the narrator’s move to get overly protective of the yellow wallpaper was a clear sign that her condition was getting worse and she was getting alienated from the reality (1). The narrator messed up her room without realizing that her behavior was becoming a concern to her sister-in-law who also started taking interest on the yellow wallpaper due to a smear of yellow color on the narrator’s dress (653). While in their leased house, the narrator felt that she was removed from the face of civilization and thrust into an unknown area where she could not indulge in her daily activities including meeting up with friends or family.
In conclusion, the author of the short story had mental issues while growing up. The short story has an uncanny resemblance to her life experiences leading the reader to believe that she might have been expressing her views regarding mental illness in the article. Physicians in the 19th found that depression in women was caused by forgotten past hurt that influence the actions of the victim. The condition was treated through hypnosis and in some cases; the patient was given smelling salts to contain their emotions. Isolation negatively affects an individual diagnosed with mental disorder. The narrator’s condition was also worsened by the fact that she was alone most of the time that she started getting disturbed by the yellow wallpaper in their bedroom. The wallpaper made the narrator overly excited, violent, and develop a vivid imagination. Mental illness puts a strain on a relationship with other people. The narrator suffered in silence due to her husband’s controlling and domineering nature, which is part of the reason why she wants to lock him out of her territory and take back her independence.
Anita, Duneer. “On the verge of a breakthrough: projections of escape from the attic and the thwarted tower in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Susan Glaspell’s The Verge.” Journal of American Drama and Theatre, vol. 18, no. 1, 2016, pp. 34–71. PROQUEST, literature-proquest-com.libproxy.cnm.edu:8443/searchFulltext.do?id=R04455644&divLevel=0&queryId=3023480530034&trailId=15F603F0827&area=criticism&forward=critref_ft.
Elliot, Andrew J. “Color and Psychological Functioning: A Review of Theoretical and Empirical Work.” Frontiers in Psychology 6 (2015): 368. PMC. Web. 27 Nov. 2017.
O’Connor-Salomon, Kelly. “Review of O’Connor-Salomon, Helen Lefkowitz. Wild unrest: Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the making of The Yellow Wall-Paper.” PROQUEST, Oxford University Press, 2010, literature-proquest-com.libproxy.cnm.edu:8443/searchFulltext.do?id=R04717875&divLevel=0&queryId=3023463845863&trailId=15F5FBFBEDF&area=abell&forward=critref_ft.
Tasca, Cecilia et al. “Women And Hysteria In The History Of Mental Health.” Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health : CP & EMH 8 (2012), 110–119. PMC. Web. 27 Nov. 2017.
Scott, Heidi. “Crazed nature: ecology in The Yellow Wall-Paper.”
Explicator (67:3) [Spring 2009], p.198-203.
Stetson, Charlotte. The Yellow Wallpaper. Penguin Book Limited, 2015
Stuck with a Question?
Get it solved from our top experts within 8 hrs!Ask Your Question Now!
Get Assignment Writing Help
Our experts are ready to complete your assignment, course work. essay, test, dissertation, research paper, quizGet Started