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Feminism and Mental Illness in “The Yellow Wallpaper”

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Lindsey Plemmons

on 29 April 2015

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Transcript of Feminism and Mental Illness in “The Yellow Wallpaper”

Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Diagnosed with postpartum depression after the birth of her daughter.
Prescribed the rest cure by S. Weir Mitchell.
Nearly lost her sanity due to this "cure".
Divorced her husband and moved to California with her daughter in 1888.
Wrote "The Yellow Wallpaper" in 1890 in response to the rest cure.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Support Rest Cure
"The Yellow Wallpaper"
Written as a diary. The name of the narrator is unknown.
Her husband is a physician who prescribed her the rest cure.
The Rest Cure
George Miller Beard- "neurasthenia" or "nervelessness"
S. Weir Mitchell popularized the rest cure for upper middle and upper class women.
Women were seen as invalids.
Edward H. Clark- childbearing > education
Women viewed this cure as an act of male superiority.
By Lindsey Plemmons
Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Mental Illness in “The Yellow Wallpaper”
Literature Debate
Research Questions
What was the "rest cure"?
What kinds of patients were prescribed with this cure?
How did this treatment affect women?
How does Charlotte Perkins Gilman's story "The Yellow Wallpaper" show readers the reality of the rest cure?
What were Gilman's intentions for this story and what did she want readers to take away from it?
Thesis Statement and Approach
Approach: Feminist New Historical
Thesis: I will be looking at how her history and the time period in which she lived played a role in her interpretation of mental illness and the rest cure.
Gilman’s story was directly influenced by her own experiences and was her way of expressing the injustices towards women and the harmful effects of this “cure”.
Criticize Rest Cure
Emma Wolf in
Other Things Being Equal
William Dean Howell
S. Weir Mitchell
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Ruth McEreny Stuart
Gertrude E. Jennings
John has forbidden her to write and she must limit the amount of activity that she does.
The room she's staying in has ugly yellow wallpaper and bars on the windows.
The narrator does not like the room and continuously begs Jon to let her leave. He refuses and instead treats her like a child.
She begins to see patterns in the paper and tries to solve them.
At night she sees a woman trapped behind the pattern and decides that she will free her.
One night when her husband is away, she begins to tear off the paper in an attempt to free the woman.
By morning, she has "become" the woman who was trapped behind the wall.
She locks the door, throws the key outside, and creeps around the room.
When her husband finds her, he is so shocked and frightened by her that he faints in the doorway and she continues to crawl over him.
Point of the Story?
Shows what could happen to a woman who is prescribed the rest cure.
Criticizes the rest cure and the ideas of marriage and male superiority.
Specifically calls out S. Weir Mitchell in hopes of showing him that his cure does not work.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote "The Yellow Wallpaper" in order to show people the reality of the rest cure.
She wrote based on her own experiences and showed readers what could have happened to her had she not gone against S. Weir Mitchell's prescription.
She used this story as a way to inform women of the dangers of this cure and her story was an eye-opener for many women dealing with the same issues.
Things to Remember
Charlotte Perkins Gilman experienced the rest cure firsthand.
The Yellow Wallpaper was directly related to her own experiences and is semi- autobiographical.
Gilman's goal was to show people that the rest cure was futile, if not fatal for women.
Gilman, Charlotte P. "The Yellow Wallpaper." The Yellow Wallpaper. University of Virginia Library, n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2015.
Golden, Catherine. "'Overwriting' the Rest Cure: Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Literary Escape from S. Weir Mitchell's Fictionalization of Women." Critical Essays on Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Ed. Joanne B. Karpinski. New York: G. K. Hall & Co., 1992. 144-158. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Janet Witalec. Vol. 62. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Literature Resource Center. Web. 23 Apr. 2015.
Knight, Denise D. "The Yellow Wallpaper." American History Through Literature 1870-1920. Ed. Tom Quirk and Gary Scharnhorst. Vol. 3. Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2006. 1227-1230. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 23 Apr. 2015.
Tuttle, Jennifer S. "Health and Medicine." American History Through Literature 1870-1920. Ed. Tom Quirk and Gary Scharnhorst. Vol. 2. Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2006. 443-449. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 23 Apr. 2015.

Works Cited
Charlotte Perkins Gilman was a writer in the late 19th century who wrote a story about "the rest cure".
"The rest cure" was prescribed to women who were anxious, nervous, or depressed.
Her story shows that the cure was not effective in treating these issues.
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