The Rest Cure: Prescription to Insanity The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Essay by teddy8844High School, 10th gradeB+, April 2009

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“She has so long been subject to the disabilities and restrictions, with which her progress has been embarrassed that she has become enervated, her mind to some extent paralyzed; and, like those still more degraded by personal bondage, she hugs she chains. Liberty is often presented in its true light, but it is liberty for man.”-Lucretia Mott Speech “Discourse on Women”. The late 19th century was an era dominated by man where women were held hostage under the confinements of society. However, it also marked a time where women were crossing a threshold of freedom led by those such as Lucretia Mott. Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” is symbolic of this era as it testifies the struggles of women under the strict authority of men. The story is told first person through the narrator who descends into madness as she undergoes “the rest treatment” (a treatment prescribed for nervous disorders at the time) under strict supervision enforced by her husband.

Through the power of language and intellectual vigor, Gilman shows that society can force people into unwanted roles and that lack of intellectual stimulation and self expression can lead to insanity.

In “The Yellow Wallpaper” many aspects of symbolism are used to let the story take on more that it’s obvious meaning. John, the narrator’s husband symbolizes a society base ton the domineering race of man. He a “physician of high standing”(331) assumes the right to control his wife, leaving her to be treated as a child, dependent and incapable. The narrator is told that she is to take “phosphates or phosphites- whichever it is, and tonics, and journeys, and air, and exercise, and [is] absolutely forbidden to work until [she] [is] well again”(332). Despite recognizing her husband’s sincere efforts she says,