The Yellow Wallpaper is a story by feminist writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman first published in 1892. It describes the dramatic experiences of a young woman. Her husband, John, is a physician and prescribes treatment for her postpartum depression. To cure, she needs to stay in a poorly furnished room of an old colonial mansion in the countryside.
John rents the mansion with the only purpose to accommodate his wife. From time to time, his sister Jennie visits her to check that the woman is resting. Rest means that she remains passive and does not touch a pen and paper. Charlotte Gilman wrote the work after she became hostage to a similar situation. When she gave birth to a daughter, her husband strongly recommended her to see Dr. Mitchell. The doctor prescribed her the so-called “rest cure.” This method was prevalent at the time.
A woman had to stay at home and limit herself from any activities. In the early 20th century, women had very few rights in society. Many educated middle-class women felt oppressed by the limits imposed on them. Their desire to go beyond these limits, suppressed by husbands and other men, caused a depressive or hysterical state. Recovery meant a return to a submissive state when a woman began to obey a doctor’s or husband’s will.
The situation reflected in The Yellow Wallpaper was horrible. A male’s voice dictated to the heroine what to feel and how to perceive reality. Critics point out that the real prototype of John was not Dr. Mitchell, but Gilman’s husband.