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Gilbert’s short story “The yellow wallpaper” Essay

Gilbert’s chronical of her own descent into madness is set in a remote, isolated older home, with very beautiful surroundings, and more in particular and old nursery in which Gilbert is imprisoned for her own “sanity”. The ironic point is that it is the cure for her ” insanity” that creates the insanity she ultimately adopts. The narrator is a repressed woman with nowhere to go except madness. As a parallel to Kate Chopin”s ” Story of an Hour” in which death was the escape to freedom, Gilbert emphasizes that the narrators only escape to freedom was madness.

The story is divided into time frames with each period detailling her descent into madness. In the first section it is wise to note that both John and her brother are prominent physicians and believe that she needs to be unstimulated in order to overcome post-partum depression, as was practiced by such prominent theorist as Sels Weir Mitchell, who was in fact Gilbert’s own physician at the time the story was written. ( as a side note: It is of interest to note that after reading Gilbert’s account of her own feelings in this short story, Wier Mitchell discontinued the use of “rest therapy”.) We discover in later time frames that John is in denial of his wife’s deteriorating medical condition, mainly as a result of the societal stigma’s of mental illness and the affluence of his status.

The room that is the primary setting is very institutionalized and unstimulating. There is this dilapitated, detoriorating, smelly, yellow wall paper with a design representative of Gilbert’s madness, that eventually becomes her savior. As she succumbs to dymentia, the narrator has hallucinations of a women behind the wallpaper. The narrator becomes convinced this woman is “trapped” by the wallpaper but yet, manages to successfully “escape” even if only to slink around the shrubbery. The narrator identifies with the delusions, eventually forging with the delusion, making the separation of one from the other impossible.

She describes in detail the horror of those around her as they become to realise the extent of the mental illness hidden in the narrator. The speaker makes reference to feelings of paranoia that John and Jenny are going to somehow intrude on the relationship she has with the wallpaper, and admits that she liked the room inspite of the wallpaper, no because of the wallpaper. The wallpaper represent to the narrator., a chance for freedom and the cost was insanity, just as the intricate design that was a crime against all the rules of design that had been implied upon first consideration.

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