What are some parallels between Gilman and the narrator in the story?

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litelle209's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #1)

Gilman attempts to illustrate what happens when women lack mental and intellectual stimulation. The story was written in the late nineteenth century and is indeed based on the author's own experience with depression. The "rest cure", as it was termed back then and which was developed by Gilman's physican Dr. Weir Mitchell, prescribed absolute rest and no stimulation whatsoever for the afflicted women. While we may find this misguided and plain weird today, it was based on a particular view of the female temperament and woman's nature. Remember for instance that the nineteenth century gave rise to the Cult of True Womanhood (this is indeed a term that was used). This was the view that upper and middle class women were meek, ornamental beings who made the world a better place by bringing piety and good morals to their husbands and children. Women were naturally inclined to be submissive to their husbands, who in turn owed their wives protection. In the story, like in Gilman's own life, these antiquated believes drive her insanity. The story illustrates that taking away mental stimulation ( her writing) drives the psychosis further instead of helping her recover. It is thus perhaps a plea for recognizing a woman's need for intellectual self-fullfilment.

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