What is wrong with the narrator in "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

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The narrator in "The Yellow Wallpaper" is likely suffering from depression and likely from postpartum psychosis (at least in part) because of the young baby mentioned in the story. She finds that she cannot take care of her baby and has no desire to be near him, as his presence makes her "nervous."

The specific illness is never mentioned, but the narrator does relate that her husband suggests: taking her to Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell, a doctor who became known for working with intellectual women suffering from similar symptoms and prescribing a "rest cure."

Although she longs to do more in the beginning of the story than simply rest inside her room, her husband feels that he knows what is best for her (and even what ails her) and insists that she rest. He calls her his "little girl" and refuses to listen to his wife's concerns about her health. She expresses feelings that she isn't getting better, that she isn't gaining weight, and that her mind still isn't clear. He replies by telling her that she simply can't see the truth of how much she's improved.

The narrator is surrounded by men who claim to know more about her condition than she does. Both her husband and her brother are physicians who insist that she has simply a "temporary" nervous depression. The specialist they consider sending her to is also a male. So the narrator suffers, very much alone, and even becomes afraid of her husband before her complete break with reality in the final scenes of the story.

There are two core issues with the narrator, as evidenced through the events of the story. First, she suffers from some mental health issues and isn't receiving the treatment she needs. Second, her own concerns about her health are dismissed and trivialized by others until she becomes completely trapped in her own mental world and suffers a psychotic break.

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The nameless narrator is suffering from postpartum depression, and her sanity rapidly diminishes as a result of her husband's prescribed "rest cure." The rest cure was developed by a leading neurologist at the time named Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell, who created a method to cure neurosis and depression by minimizing distressing stimulation. Dr. Mitchell's rest cure required patients to experience a solitary rest period lasting between six to eight weeks while they refrained from exercise, socializing, reading, writing, and sewing.

In the story, the narrator's husband, John, is depicted as a narrow-minded physician who significantly overlooks his wife's mental health and insists that the rest cure will remedy her postpartum depression. He forbids his wife from leaving the room, exercising, working, and writing. Tragically, the narrator gradually begins to lose touch with reality as her mental health significantly diminishes.

Despite her numerous pleas to leave her room and engage in physical activities, John prohibits her from doing so. The narrator begins to hallucinate by seeing a woman trapped inside the yellow wallpaper and eventually embodies the persona of the trapped woman. By the end of the story, the narrator has begun to crawl on all fours and bite at the legs of the bed, which stuns her husband when he finally opens the door to her room.

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The nameless narrator and protagonist in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's short story "The Yellow Wallpaper" is a woman who has recently given birth to a first child and is suffering what seems to be an intense bout of post-partum depression.

The main problem of the narrator, however, is not the condition alone. It is the manner in which it is being treated. Instead of receiving moral and emotional support, our main character is treated as if her feebleness comes as a result of her gender and from an illness. She is taken to a rented home far away and is left in basic isolation inside a room. She is deprived of her therapeutic needs, such as reading and writing. She is even deprived of her child, who is taken to another room. Her husband and her doctor both agree that the narrator is simply going through some phase and they disregard completely the real needs of this poor woman.

It is both ignorance and arrogance what lead to this debacle. The arrogance of men treating women as secondary citizens leads to their overall ignorance as to what women need. The narrator, eventually, loses her mind. The yellow wallpaper with which the room was covered begins to give ideas to her already disturbed mind. In it, she sees herself as a woman trapped within the yellow wallpaper.

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