The narrator of The Yellow Wallpaper loses touch with reality because of the cure that she is prescribed for her depression. The treatment, which is based on the so-called "rest cure" by nineteenth century neurologist S. Weir Mitchell, requires the woman to abstain from all intellectual activity and simply rest. The woman therefore becomes a captive to the treatment which ends up by worsening her condition rather than improving it. The condition of complete inactivity causes her to have hallucinations and see a woman trapped in the yellow wall-paper of the room where the narrator is to rest. This imaginary woman mirrors the entrapment experienced by the narrator.
The assumptions on women's behavior in late nineteenth century American society play an important part in reducing the narrator to mental insanity. Women were considered male properties; thus, the narrator cannot make her own choice about her treatment, but has to comply with what her husband and her doctor impose on her. The rest cure itself was based on the conviction that intellectual stimulations were wrong for women. This reveals how women were still considered as children to be taken care of rather than individuals.