The Yellow Wallpaper Questions and Answers
by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The Yellow Wallpaper book cover
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What is the historical significance of "The Yellow Wallpaper?"

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In 1913 Charlotte Perkins Gilman published, "Why I Wrote 'The Yellow Wallpaper,'" explaining that she herself had suffered for years from nervous problems that led to melancholia. After she had suffered for three years, she went to a noted specialist in nervous diseases who prescribed the "rest cure." Since she was physically healthy, her body responded to the rest and she was sent home with instructions to "live as domestic a life as possible" and to only have two hours of "intelligent life" a day.

Ms. Gilman embraced the new feminist movement that supported more independence and broader roles outside the home, roles that could exercise a woman's spirit and give her increased, not less "iintelligent life." Very avant-garde, Mis Gilman believed that women should be financially independent from men; she even promoted the idea that men and women should share domestic work--a most radical concept for the late 1800s. Her story, a testimony to her beliefs, caused some social furor at the time that it was published.

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Charlotte Perkins Gilman's famous story, "The Yellow Wallpaper," is quite reflective of the time in which it was written. The protagonist is cloistered in a room that she abhors. She longs to go outside, yet she is forced to remain inside because of her suppossed declining health. There is evidence in the story that it is her imprisonment that causes her sickness, though her husband does not allow her to see it. These details paint a picture all too common of the era that Gilman lived in - women who were expected to answer to their husbands, regardless of how intelligent or unhappy they may be. This story helped to pull the veil back on this kind of treatment toward women.

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