How could psychological criticism of The Yellow Wallpaper help to enlarge a reader's understanding of the story?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that an analysis of Post Partum Depression and the social effects of repression on women can help to enhance one's understanding of the story.  It helps to explain both the women's reaction to her predicament and the profoundly frustrating element of social inertia to understanding the psychological condition of women.  The familiar refrain of "needing rest" is used as a way to psychologically repress the narrator, causing the fragmentation of her mind.  Reading into the psychological dimension of socialized repression of women enhances the understanding of the protagonist and the circumstances surrounding her.  At the same time, since mental illness occupies so much importance in the narraitve, a psychological criticism would enhance one's grasp and understanding of it.  Going beyond the traditional diagnosis of women's condition as a "case of the nerves," a psychological reading yield much more profound insight:

Left with no real means of expression or escape, the narrator represses her anger and frustration and succumbs to insanity. Greg Johnson emphasizes this theme in an essay for Studies in Short Fiction in which he notes that the story 'traces the narrator's gradual identification with her own suppressed rage, figured as a woman grasping the bars of her prison and struggling frantically to get free."

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