What are the key terms in "The Yellow Wallpaper"?Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper"

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Considered a story of psychological realism, "The Yellow Wallpaper" depicts a woman from the Victorian Age who suffers from post-partum depression as well as the stultifying control of her husband under the femme covert laws.  In addition, Gilman depicts the unreasonable treatment of post-partum depression of the era, a treatment to which the unnamed narrator is subjected.

Here are some of the terms associated with the historical context of this story:

femme covert laws  - under these laws, husbands had complete dominion over their wives' property. In fact, wives had no direct legal control over their earnings, children, or belongings.  That the narrator is conditioned to accept this law is evidenced in her words,

He [the protagonist's husband] is very careful and loving, and hardly let me stir without special direction.

She also remarks,

If a physician of high standing, and one's own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression--a slight hysterical tendency--what is one to do? 

2. nervous depression, also known as"a slight hysterical tendency" is what neurologist S. Weir Mitchell, who prescribed his

3. rest-cure: complete bed rest and limited intellectual activity, are terms relative to post-partum depression that are used by Dr. Mitchell.

4. nervous troubles is another term that applies to post-partum depression. 

5. phosphates and tonics are prescribed for the "troubles" associated with the nervous system.  The unnamed protagonist comments that these"nervous troubles are dreadfully depressing," indicating that she correctly self-diagnoses.



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The Yellow Wallpaper

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