The Yellow Wallpaper

Emma Downs

About the Author

The author of The Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, wrote this story from personal experience. In her article "Why I Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper," she explains that for many years she suffered from nervous breakdowns due to melancholia, which is a type of depression. She went to a well known specialist seeking help with her condition and he advised her to "live a domestic a life as far as possible," and "have but two hours' intellectual life a day." After following through with his advice for nearly three months, her mental state was deteriorating, and her condition wasn't getting any better. With the help of a friend, she realized that the specialist's advice was worsening her depression, and cast it aside. She went back to work, and overcame her depression. Social and intellectual stimulation were key factors in her recovery process.

This Time in History

This story was published in 1892, a time where women were not seen as equal to men. Women weren't given the same opportunities as men, and they were still thought of as only mothers and housewives for the most part. However, from the 1870's to the 1920's, the divorce rate in America grew steadily. Unlike before, women were able to more easily pursue a divorce, and gain custody of their children. Their roles in the home weren't appreciated, and often their husbands treated their wives as if they knew best.

The Literary Period

This was published after the Civil War, during the realism writing period. Women were realizing how they were being treated, and began to share their experiences. In The Yellow Wallpaper, the woman has a sensitive mental condition, made worse by her husband, who disregards her illness. The story was depicting how middle class women were treated during this time. The woman in this story was left to suffer, because her husband thought he was right.

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