What are some similarities and differences between the actual author of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the fictional narrator of the story?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, who was herself the victim of the "rest cure" of the repressive Victorian Age, explained that 

"the real purpose of the story was to reach Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, and convince him of the error of his ways"

Like the unnamed narrator of her story, Gilman was put on a cure of doing nothing in order help her overcome her "nervous depression," a condition brought on by childbirth. Of an artisitc temperament also like the narrator, Gilman was not allowed to pick up a pen, pencil, or brush.  Finally, defying the doctors orders in her desperate attempt to stave off mental illiness, Gilman wrote her story "The Yellow Wallpaper" and sent it to Dr. Mitchell, who made no response to it. 

While Gillman cured herself through the creative act of writing, the narrator in the story must free the woman behind the wallpaper, a gesture symbolic of Gillman's freeing herself from depression. Certainly, too, the details of the room where she is confined are exaggerated and are not similar to Gillman's room.

thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are many major similarities between  the author of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the fictional narrator of the story. The reason is that the story is a quasi-autobiographical account of Gilman's experience with a "rest cure" after experiencing postpartum depression immediately after the birth of her daughter. The author and narrator are both married, of similar ages, suffering from depression, female, and highly imaginative. One can assume that the literal event of crawling over her husband while circling the room is symbolic rather than real:

Now why should that man have fainted? But he did, and right across my path by the wall, so that I had to creep over him every time!

seems physically improbable.

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The Yellow Wallpaper

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