Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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How does Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s personal life relate to the overall story of her work “The Yellow Wallpaper”?

Like the narrator of "The Yellow Wallpaper," Gilman was subjected to Weir Mitchell's "rest cure" for postpartum depression. Like the narrator, she found the cure debilitating and counter-productive. She sent Weir Mitchell a copy of her story in the hopes he would change his treatment method.

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Charlotte Perkins Gilman married in 1884 and had a baby in 1885. After the birth, she suffered severely from postpartum depression similarly to the narrator of "The Yellow Wallpaper." Like the narrator, Gilman was treated by her husband (who was an artist) as well as by a doctor, Silas Weir Mitchell. Mitchell's fame rested on inventing the "rest cure" for patients who were considered "hysterical." Virginia Woolf was also treated using the rest cure method, a treatment of which she was scathingly critical. She described it as being cut off from friends, books, and outside interactions for six months, left with nothing to do.

The narrator in "The Yellow Wallpaper" is subjected by her husband to Mitchell's rest cure, just as Gilman was. As we can see, it does not cure her, but instead drives her into psychosis. (Gilman herself hated the rest cure, but was not driven into psychosis by it.)

The story's narrator tries, to no avail, to communicate to her husband that she needs mental stimulation and the chance to leave her room. Gilman wrote the story to show what the rest cure felt like from a patient's point of view. She sent the story to Weir Mitchell in an attempt to persuade him to change his method.

The story is an important feminist statement and reflects Gilman's belief that women should be allowed the freedom to develop their minds and bodies. She felt the domestic, patriarchal home as structured in her period was detrimental to a woman's growth and flourishing.

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