Compare and contrast how Charlotte Gilman sees herself versus how people around her see her in "The Yellow Wallpaper."
An important thing to remember is that the author is not necessarily the narrator, and this is usually the case more often than not. The author uses a "voice" that is not his/her own. In this case, it is the narrator, who is the woman who is suffering from depression. Although there are many parallels between the narrator's mental illness and Gilman's own, there are also many differences.
The narrator clearly is frustrated with her husband not listening to her opinions about her illness, but she defers to him because of the time period and because she truly believed that he was trying to do what was best for her; however, she also knew that being confined to this horrible room was not the best treatment for her. I am sure she is aware that she is suffering from a depression. She is not oblivious to this. However, as her mental state slowly begins to erode even further, she is not aware of how bad it has gotten. She describes her feelings about the wallpaper as if they are normal...matter-of-fact. She is very sure about the woman in the wallpaper and relays that to the reader.
Her husband is not too concerned about her mental state until he breaks into the room and sees her crawling about the baseboards. He then proceeds to pass out from the shock of it. Unfortunately, he does not realize that what he has done to her has made her fall deeper into madness, and it is much more serious than he realized.
Well, though Gilman mentions some autobiographical roots for this story, the most basic difference is, she (the author) is not in the story. She creates a fictional character and puts her in the story.
Now, if we look at the story that way, the narrator and those around her agree that the woman in the story is upset, that she is run down, and that she needs rest. They agree about the physical details of the house in which they stay.
Where they disagree are in the explanations of those things and in the nature of the woman behind the yellow wall paper. To be specific, she sees the place as having been the site of some darker events than they do—and she sees the woman as actually existing, as some sort of supernatural event. They see her as…crazy.
In my opinion "The Yellow Wallpaper" clearly is a semi-autobiography. I'm sure Gilman saw herself in the narrators place when she wrote it, because she at the same time was going through problems very similar to the narrators. They were both "forbidden" to write/work and they were both applied the rest cure. Both of them of course, now that they are one and the same, thought the very opposite would cure them: excitement and change. Gilman also includes the feminist problems of her time as one can see by the narrators husband and her own brother being the ones with the final word she has to obey. However, one sees that they don't follow the same path because when the narrator descends further and further down the stairs of madness, Gilman chose another path. As she says herself: "I came so near the borderline of utter mental ruin that I could see over." This clearly shows that she had a strong enough will to ascend. This is a reason why she wrote "The Yellow Wallpaper". Another reason or intention is to save people from being driven crazy.
On the other side, I'd say that the people around her see/saw it very similarly, because she did in no way try to hide the fact that she was going down the very same drain.
Mary herself does know that she is sick and suffering from some kind of depression. Her husband, John, a physician of high standing as he is described, keeps assuring friends and relatives that there is nothing the matter with Mary, that it is just a temporary nervous depression, a slight hysterical tendency, and he has therefore also forbidden Mary to work until she is well again. Mary disagrees with his ideas even though he is a doctor, and believes that some congenial work would do her good, some excitement and change, so secretly when she is in her room she writes about the circumstances in the house, the room where she is trapped, her lack of freedom and, of course, the yellow wallpaper.
John tells her that she is getting better, that her appetite is better and that she has gained flesh and colour, which is not true due to what Mary says. "She shall be sick as she pleases" John says, which shows the way he actually treats her - he does not see her depression as something serious, he just thinks she is being hysterical. As Mary starts to study the pattern of the yellow wallpaper more and more, she feels that life is very much more exciting than it used to be. She starts to see a woman creeping about behind the pattern, she is shaking to get out and in the end Mary is that woman herself. John is happy to see her improve, which again shows, that he really does not have a clue what is going on in Mary's head.