Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Yellow Wallpaper Syndrome

After reading about Charlotte Perkin Gilman's mini-biography I found it much easier to see how she was able to enter into the mindset of someone under the confines of solitary confinement after being treated for depression through a means of treatment known as "rest-cure". This, it seems, was the basis for criticism in her short story The Yellow Wallpaper, as her descent into madness arguably would never have reached the climax if she had not been secluded in her room for days on end and told not to do anything but rest. How could she not have criticised the wallpaper? Is it so hard to believe that such an irritation would not eventually build into an obsession if no alternatives were ever presented?
I feel that what Gilman is trying to say that this particular treatment is an especially poor method to treat illness. This can be pulled from her experience from her own encounters of the "rest-cure" method while being treated for depression and her resulting divorce.
The wallpaper itself is such an undeniably wicked and captivating thing that in the bleakness of the narrator's situation a fixation on the wallpaper was inevitable. Gilman intentionally put a focus on this wallpaper, I feel, to give a tangible explanation for an otherwise abstarct concept. The wallpaper is a convenient medium through which Gilman is able to show the different stages and gradual decline that leads into madness. I also feel that given her circumstances, there was no altering her fate given her present state of mental and physical condition. Perhaps if she were allowed to leave the room earlier on, or if she was given some focus she would not have been pushed to such an extreme, but otherwise, this was the only possible outcome.

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