This paper aims at examining the novel The Yellow Wallpaper created by Charlotte Perkins Gilman at the end of the 19th century. There are three possible reasons for why the main character goes mad: postpartum depression, toxic mold, and poorly developed relations with a husband. It is hard to explain if there is one reason only for such outcomes and the development of the events.
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In this paper, several thoughts of why it is necessary to discuss all aspects of postpartum depression simultaneously are introduced. Postpartum depression may have various forms, and people who do not want to identify the problem which they have to fight against are doomed to suffer and solve the same problems again and again till their deaths come. Gilman shows one of the most dangerous and saddest stories of postpartum depression, and this paper explains why Gilman is correct in her discussion.
The novel The Yellow Wallpaper written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in 1892 is a story of a woman with an unknown for that period of illness. It attracts attention due to its mystery, the inability to introduce clear reasons, and the necessity to understand the development of the events using personal imagination and knowledge.
Today, the reader can understand that this problem is postpartum depression, and its uniqueness lies in the impossibility to identify all symptoms and predict its development and outcomes. Postpartum depression is a mental health condition characterized by serious consequences of parturition and the necessity to take care of an offspring regardless of all the negative and painful experiences (O’Hara & McCabe, 2013). The analysis of the story proved that female madness based on postpartum depression might get worse in case it is accompanied by a poorly chosen therapy, a lack of support, and toxic mold.
The Yellow Wallpaper is the story presented through the notes of a woman who experienced certain mental problems that did not have clear explanations. There are no clear causes of her depression, and the reader can guess that some mental problems began after the woman gave birth to her baby. Being forced to live in a dangerous environment, the woman could not cope with her emotions. “The color is repellant, almost revolting; a smoldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight” (Gilman, n.d., p. 649). In the story, the woman described her kind and caring relations with a husband. Still, it is hard for the reader to find evidence for such relations because of the total absence of the man in his wife’s life.
In the story, there are no diagnostic steps to be taken to help the woman and improve her condition. In reality, postpartum depression is the disease that has to be treated with the help of specific medications and therapies that are appropriate for a patient. Gilman neglects all crucial steps from the medical point of view and proves that male-female relationships in the 18-19th centuries were complicated and characterized by unfair treatment and male dominance that led to personal madness. The Yellow Wallpaper is the story of how male negligence to identify woman’s problems and concerns can influence human lives.
Instead of searching for some rational ideas and treatments, the husband, who calls himself a doctor with a good reputation, spends days and nights out of their house promoting the development of new strange emotions and feelings. Nowadays, postpartum depression can be diagnosed and treated properly. The role of a husband is crucial in such therapy because of his possibility to develop positive emotions and identify the benefits of having a family. Therefore, the character’s madness can be explained by a poorly chosen therapy, low support of a husband, fast-developing postpartum depression, toxic mold, and mental problems that can be expressed through demonic possession.
The solutions and outcomes offered in the novel turn out to be a tragedy that may touch upon every family when subordination between a woman and a man is broken, no help comes from the outside, and no self-expression is allowed. Postpartum depression is a serious disease with serious outcomes. Heroine’s madness is the result of her husband’s neglect, her loneliness that made the woman believe in ghosts, and her inability to be involved in some activities that could distract her (Gilman, n.d.). The events described in the book show that women depend on their men in many different ways. Still, today, women can be provided with different choices. At the moment when the novel was first published, not every woman had access to that solution.
In general, The Yellow Wallpaper is a tragic and horrifying story about how wrong family relations can be developed. Instead of supporting his wife, the husband decides to minimize their connection and relationship. Instead of providing appropriate and comfortable conditions, the husband chooses one of the most terrible places for his therapy. Wrong solutions lead to negative results and the inability to change anything in postpartum relations and save a woman’s life.
Gilman, C. P. (n.d.). The yellow wallpaper.
O’Hara, M.W., & McCabe, J.E. (2013). Postpartum depression: Current status and future directions. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 9, 379-407.