The Yellow Wallpaper

The Impenetrable Fortress of Wallpaper: Tone, Symbolism, and Context "The Yellow Wallpaper" College

“Live as domestic a life as possible… And never touch pen, brush, or pencil as long as you live” (“The Literature of Prescription”). Such was the suggestion bestowed upon Charlotte Perkins Gilman, author of “The Yellow Wallpaper,” by her physician, the famed Silas Weir Mitchell, when she began to exhibit symptoms now known to characterize post-partum depression. The “rest cure,” as it came to be known, was a common prescription in the 19th century for all manners of mental disorders, ranging from depression to hysteria (polar opposites, it should be noted). It involved forgoing nearly all physical and mental activity, opting out of social contact, spending heavy amounts of time in bed, being fed a steady diet of high-calorie foods, and occasionally, even being subjected to electrotherapy (“Bed Rest”). From this brief description, it could be inferred that, in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Charlotte Gilman was attempting to take on the inadequacies of the rest cure, exposing them to the public eye. However, that alone is not entirely true. According to a recent review of the rest cure in The American Journal of Psychiatry, said cure “was prescribed almost exclusively for women,” the unstated presumption of the day being that men had...

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