Short Story Review: The Yellow Wallpaper

Experience the well-crafted descension of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Protagonist as it happens

Devette Lindsay

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Photo by Bekky Bekks on Unsplash

John is a physician…perhaps that is one reason I do not get well faster. The Yellow Wallpaper

Published in 1892, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” is a horror short story by feminist writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman. We follow the steady mental decline of the unnamed main character who is ignored, dismissed and given no agency regarding her medical treatment. “The Yellow Wallpaper,” is highly regarded by some as a feminist work highlighting the poor medical and psychological treatment women received in the 19th Century. Gilman wrote this short story in response to the “rest cure” that was prescribed to her following the birth of her daughter. The treatment worsened her condition and left her feeling ignored and powerless.

Gilman was treated by Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell, a big proponent of the “rest cure”. He also treated author Virginia Wolf at some point. Wolf made a satirical reference criticizing the treatment in her book, “Mrs. Dalloway.” (1925).

As Western medicine developed, there was an underlying assumption that a man’s body is “normal” and the differences found in a woman’s body are deviations from this norm (abnormal). As a consequence, diseases and disorders primarily affecting women have not received an equal amount of research, analysis or advancement in treatment.

For much of documented history, women have been excluded from medical and science knowledge production, so essentially we’ve ended up with a healthcare system, among other things in society, that has been made by men for men. Dr Kate Young, Interview in The Guardian

The “Cure” that Made Female Patients Worse

When 19th century doctors encountered a female patient with an illness they didn’t understand, or when a woman continually complained about symptoms after a treatment, it was not uncommon for the patient to be labeled as “hysterical” or considered “difficult.” These patients were often prescribed a “rest cure” to calm their nerves. This treatment required the patient to remain isolated from family, friends and emotional stimuli, which would include their…

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Devette Lindsay

I'm a writer, an avid reader, and a fan of magic found within the mundane. I publish articles on speculative fiction, literature and creativity.