A Male Point of View of Women’s Hysteria in “the Yellow Wallpaper”

The Yellow Wallpaper

Priyanka Chopra May 10, 2010 A Male Point of view of Women’s Hysteria in “The Yellow Wallpaper” Critics see Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s narrative “The Yellow Wallpaper” as either a work of supernatural scary or as a feminist writing concerning the questionable role of women in society. A close analysis of Gilman’s use of signs exposes “The Yellow Wallpaper” as her action to the male view of hysteria from ancient times through the nineteenth century.” In “The Yellow Wallpaper” Gilman questions the credibility of Hippocrates’s theory of the roaming uterus and Dam Mitchell’s “rest cure”.

As she wrote in her essay “Why I Composed the Yellow Wallpaper? “,” [the story] was not intended to drive individuals crazy, but to conserve individuals from being driven crazy …” (Gilman 107). By her own account, Gilman’s function in writing “The Yellow Wallpaper” was to educate and inform the public of the misinterpretation of hysterical symptoms. The origin of the word hysteria reveals the belief in the inability of ladies. As James Palis composes in The Hippocratic Concept of Hysteria: A Translation of the Initial Texts: “Etymologically, the term usteria (hysteria) stems from ustera (hystera), the Greek word for uterus, which suggests an inferior position.

Hence, usteria denotes suffering of the uterus, the most inferior organ in the female” (226 ). The reality that the literal translation of hystera is “inferior position” enhances the reality that from ancient times ladies were considered as physically inferior to males. Because the one significant physical difference in between ladies and males is the existence of the uterus, mental problems that were thought about to be strictly female were credited to some malfunction of the uterus. Hippocrates first proposed in his work “The Art of Recovery” that hysteria was caused by a roaming uterus (Hothersall 16).

He believed that the uterus could remove itself in the body and wander around the female body attaching itself to other organs. Hippocrates discussed that the various signs of hysteria, such as anxiousness, anxiety, and hysterical fits, were triggered by the uterus’s interactions with the other organs in the body. In his text “On the Nature of Ladies” he discusses the cause and treatment of a hysterical fit: If the uterus comes towards the liver, the female unexpectedly ends up being speechless, and clenches her teeth, and her color comes back. …”… In such situations, push below the liver with the hand and tighten up a bandage below the hypochondria, and by opening the mouth administer a most fragrant wine, and bless the nostrils and use malodorous fumigations”(Palis 227). In light of Hippocratic custom, Gilman likewise employs symbols of prison and entrapment to represent the procedure of anchoring the uterus. Gilman’s symbols represent the actual anchor of inequality that suppresses women within a misogynist society. The narrator’s bedroom is the most obvious symbol of female’s entrapment in a misogynist society.

She describes the history of the space in her journal: “It was a nursery first and then a playroom and gym, I need to evaluate for the windows are barred for little children, and there are rings and things in the walls” (257 ). The description of the barred windows and the rings on the walls exposes the prison-like environment of the nursery. The emphasis on the functionality as “a nursery initially and after that a playroom and gym” suggests that the space changes to fit all regards to jail time.

The storyteller’s inability to leave the entrapment of society’s view of women as children who require to be watched over is strengthened in her husband’s rejection to remove the wallpaper. John said that after the wallpaper was changed it would be the “heavy bedstead, and then the barred windows, and after that gate at the head of the stairs, and so on” (258 ). John represents the male perspective that once specific rights and liberties are paid for to women, women will demand to be equivalent with guys.

Gilman attributed attributes the disrespect for women as one of the factors contributing to their depression. She stresses the value of financial equality between the sexes. She challenges the concept that though women are physically strong enough to bring the burden of giving birth, yet they are viewed as incapable of the self-control needed to work beyond the house. Gilman challenges the prominent Dr. Dam Mitchell’s belief that hysteria, the worried breakdown of ladies, was triggered when women tried to do the work of males. According to Dr.

Mitchell, the worried breakdown” took place when females were unable to handle their own physical constraints” (Bassuk)citation?. Dr. Mitchell established a “rest remedy” which he thought cured hysterical women. Mitchell’s “rest treatment” was based on the facility that women were physically inferior to males. He believed that hysteria was brought on by a lady’s inferior constitution. His “rest cure” consisted of ceasing all of the lady’s psychological and physical labors. Mitchell believed that ladies must not seek greater types of education because their bodies couldn’t deal with the stress. Bassuk). Gilman had first-hand understanding of the side effects of the “rest treatment.” Mitchell then treated her for a serious anxiety. She keeps in mind how her experiences with Mitchell functioned as the inspiration behind the writing of “The Yellow Wallpaper” in her essay “Why I Wrote the Yellow Wallpaper? “: “For several years, I struggled with an extreme and constant nervous breakdown tending to melancholia and beyond. Throughout the third year of this difficulty I went, in devout faith and some faint stir of hope, to a kept in mind specialist in worried diseases, the best known in the nation.

This wise man put me to bed and used the rest cure, to which a still excellent physique responded so without delay that he concluded there was absolutely nothing much the matter with me, and sent me house with solemn guidance to live a domestic a life as far as possible, to have but two hours intellectual life a day, and never to touch pen, brush or pencil again as long as I lived. I went home and complied with those instructions for some three months, and came so near the borderline of utter psychological mess up that I might see over.” (106 ). Gilman’s individual experiences with Dr.

Mitchell exposed the misconceptions in his belief that overtaxing a weak brain triggered hysteria. Gilman’s own experiences revealed the real reason for her melancholia: avoiding her innate desire to write. She concluded after her abstinence of composing that “work is delight and development and service, without which one is a pauper and a parasite …”( 106 ). Gilman concluded that the rejection of intellectual activity caused the disintegration of self-worth. Gilman directly implicates Dr. Mitchell as a member of the medical neighborhood with erroneous beliefs relating to female hysteria in “The Yellow Wallpaper. The storyteller complains of her other half’s risk of treatment in her journal: “John says if I don’t pick up much faster he will send me to Weir Mitchell in the fall. But I do not wish to got there at all. I had a pal who was in his hands when, and she states he is just like John and my brother, only more so!” (260 ). This unfavorable comparison in between John and Dr. Mitchell informs the reader that the suppression that the storyteller is exposed to at the hands of her other half parallels the injustice of Gilman by Dr.

Mitchell. The storyteller describes the rest remedy as prescribed by her partner: “… [I] am definitely forbidden to ‘work’ till I am well once again” (255 ). The focus on work as the potential reason for hysteria mirrors Mitchell’s belief that the American woman was physically unfit for work. Although the storyteller concerns the credibility of the rest cure, she submits to the treatment. Mitchell’s belief that the reason for hysteria is the tax of weak minds is echoed in John’s alerting to his wife.

She recalls, “He states that with my creative power and routine of story-making, an anxious weak point like mine is sure to result in all manner of thrilled fancies, and that I ought to utilize my will and common sense to examine the propensity” (258 ). Although from a twentieth-century point of view suppressing independent thought is ludicrous, in the nineteenth-century it was “good sense”. Mitchell’s technique of rest remedy treated ladies as kids by limiting them to bed rest and forbidding them to engage in any adult activities. John’s view of his other half as a kid is seen in “The Yellow Wallpaper” in the way in which husband and wife connect.

John and the storyteller do not have a typical adult relationship. This is apparent in the method which John refers to his better half as “little girl” (262) and a “blessed little goose”( 258 ). John acts more as a father figure than as a spouse. In response to his partner’s problems he reacts, “Bless her little heart! … She shall be as sick as she pleases!” insinuating that his better half is overemphasizing her signs for comfort citation. He likewise puts her to bed like a child. His spouse remembers, “And dear John collected me up in his arms, and simply carried me upstairs and laid me on the bed, and sat by me and check out to me till it tired my head” (261 ).

The fate of the female protagonist in “The Yellow Wallpaper” is Gilman’s response to the misogynist view of hysteria from ancient times through the 19th century. The only alternative for females who are pigeonholed as mentally ill is to measure up to society’s expectation. Yet, Gilman does not end “The Yellow Wallpaper” on a cynical note. She uses her protagonist hope in the type of the other females caught behind the wallpaper. The storyteller recognizes the reason for the wallpaper’s ever-changing pattern: “The front pattern does move-and no surprise! The woman behind shakes it!

Sometimes I believe there are an excellent many females behind, and often only one, and she crawls around quickly, and her crawling shakes all of it over”. (265 ). The narrator discovers solace in the reality that she is not the only lady being mistreated. The narrator discovers that the only way to over come the yellow wallpaper and society’s misunderstood views towards ladies is to unite with other oppressed females. She reveals her triumph over the wallpaper: “I pulled and she shook, I shook and she pulled, and prior to morning we had removed yards of that paper” (267 ).

It is only when she joins with the other females caught behind the wallpaper that she can begin to see progress in the removal of the wallpaper. Hope for the role of females in society is also shown through Gilman’s use of images at the ending. The narrator concerns her spouse’s action to her success over the wallpaper: “Now why should that male have passed out? But he did, and best across my path by the wall, so I had to creep over him whenever!” (269 ). This image represents the guy as physically weaker than the lady given that he is unconscious on the flooring. The partner’s actions of creeping over him suggest physical dominance.

In this image, Gilman has actually reversed Dr. Dam Mitchell’s theory that females are the weaker sex. After a careful analysis of the textual evidence in “The Yellow Wallpaper” it is apparent that Gilman’s purpose was far higher than scribing a supernatural tale. Although a few of her reading audience discovered the mental degeneration of the main character disturbing, her function was to expose the dreadful method which members of the medical occupation dealt with ladies. The real paradox lies in the truth that Gilman avenged the misogynist stereotype of the nineteenth-century9 female by taking part in an activity that was forbidden by Dr.

Mitchell. By picking to disregard doctor’s orders in order to continue her own intellectual pursuits, Gilman forged the way for other females to question the credibility of the medical neighborhood’s beliefs. Functions Cited Bassuk, Ellen L. “The Rest Cure: Repeating or Resolution of Victorian Ladies’s Conflicts?” The Female Body in Western Culture: Contemporary Perspectives. Ed. Susan Rubin Suleiman. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1986. 139-151. Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” The Charlotte Perkins Gilman Reader: “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Other Fiction. Ed. Ann J. Lane.

New York: Pantheon Books, 1980. 3-20.–, “Why I Composed the Yellow Wallpaper”. Charlotte Perkins Gilman: A Research Study of the Brief Fiction. Ed. Denise D Knight. New York City: Twayne Publishers, 1997. 106-107. Hothersall, David. History of Psychology. 3rd Ed. New York City: McGraw-Hill Inc., 1995. Palis, James., et al. “The Hippocratic Principle of Hysteria: A Translation of the Initial Texts.” Integrative Psychiatry 3. 3 (1985 ): 226-228. “Why I Wrote the Yellow Wallpaper”. Charlotte Perkins Gilman: A Study of the Brief Fiction. Ed. Denise D Knight. New York City, Twayne Publishers, 1997. 106-107.

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