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In the article, “The Yellow Wallpaper”, author Charlotte Perkins Gilman introduces a young lady, Jane who gives birth then goes through postpartum depression. Through her characterization, setting, and symbolism of isolation Jane begins to spiral downward while trying to keep herself together when around her husband and sister-in-law. Although postpartum depression appears to be a struggle with women during this era, it symbolizes that women live by patriarchy, and disorders have no room in their lives.
The setting in this writing compiles the diagnosis of having postpartum depression.
A person should almost be secluded in isolation if such a diagnosis of PPD happens. Author, Gilman, made this setting simple; a rent house about 3 miles outside of town quiet vs the quaintness of city life. The countryside of a peaceful, yet sensible treatment scene for postpartum depression is the elite setting. According to Gilman, the house is vacant due to the previous owner’s family’s heirs who did not want to keep the house up.
In this article, “The Yellow Wallpaper” Gilman stated, “There is a delicious garden!”, (2.) Jane seemed to like the outside, this simulates that she would possibly want to be out more within the garden. The house itself has a different feel from the home she left, she says, in Gilman’s article “The most beautiful place! It is quite alone, standing well back from the road, quite three miles from the village.” (2.) Jane wondered how her husband was able to find such a beautiful vacation spot. The location of being in the country, quiet, and an older home gave a romantic yet haunting effect.
The natural effect of the home grew on Jane. She begins to think and wonder the reason she is brought to the home; she trusts that her husband, knows what is best for her. Jane begins to think she can get some relief by writing in a journal, however, her husband the good doctor does not want her to do so, he only wants medications and rest for her, this is now repetitive in Janes's life. The young lady notices this yellow wallpaper in one of the rooms in which she hated. The wallpaper spoke volumes to Jane, she disliked the awkward designs, which became an obsession, she feels it signifies women and their domestic attributions that they endure in their household for this era. Jane felt she could secretly write in her journal with feelings of the life she left and new feelings of detachment from her husband. This setting is one that Jane will never forget, the feeling it gave her, and the freedom in which she gained from it by losing herself in the wallpaper; a trapped woman that she freed by tearing the paper off the wall. Jane’s insanity from the wallpaper eventually ventured to the surface when her husband John came home to find a locked door, he then questioned if this quiet, somber setting was the best for his wife’s recovery after all.
During this modernistic time, the characterization of men meant women did not have a voice. In this era women tended the home, the kids, and cooking; while the men hunted, built things, and took charge of the household. Jane being a new mom, now suffering from postpartum depression, is not able to continue her role as a woman of the home. In the article, “Role of Attachment Patterns and Partner Support n Postpartum Depression”, the author stated, “Transition to motherhood is an important process of change for women and this process represents an emotionally quite difficult and unsteady period.” (Bintas, Zorer et al 156.) Jane apparently finds it quite difficult to begin her role as a new mom and still being a lady of the home. John, her husband is a physician, as well as her brother both, have great positions in the community. In the reading, “The Yellow Wallpaper”, Jane says that her husband John was a well-known physician, she stated, “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? (Gilman 2.) Jane makes this statement because her husband feels that nothing is wrong with her; she just needs temporary rest and she will be fine. He does not want his reputation tarnished throughout the town with talks of his wife being depressed and he could not help her. John planned this vacation spot so that he was closer to work but his wife would not be conformed to the hectic city life. John’s, character, speaks volumes making a statement that men are superior to women and women are inferior to men. John does constant checks on Jane all the while belittling her illness and silencing her writings. According to Gilman, he hired his sister to be her nurse, to administer her medications on a scheduled basis and monitor her sleeping/resting patterns, which further drove her insane from constantly being monitored.
The ugly yellow wallpaper symbolizes family and medicine, then there is her illness that she remains trapped in. The definition of postpartum according to Bintas, Zorer is, “atypical depression following birth. Postpartum depression includes symptoms of the major depressive disorder such as depressive mood, loss of interest and diminished pleasure” (155.) Jane knew she had an illness; although, she disagrees with her husband who treats her like a child; she is also wise enough to know that she has a new role to take on as a mom and needs help. In the article, “Role of Attachment Patterns and Partner Support in Postpartum Depression,” it says, “The changes in the life roles of individuals are considered as one of the situations that cause stress.” (Bintas, Zoer 160.) Jane and John’s strenuous relationship is because of the way he dismisses her wants, like writing and being outside, or just having their bedroom downstairs with open windows. Jane wants to be heard by her husband and her caregiver. The wallpaper also symbolizes medicine, she feels she is ambushed into taking medicine to feel normal. John wants to keep his wife medicated on a routine schedule in hopes that this along with rest will cure her ailment. Isolation is another symbolic representation of the ugly wallpaper that has Jane in a ruckus. Jane is in this home alone resembling an insane asylum with only recollections of medications and her caregiver telling her to rest, no affection from her husband and not being able to enjoy her stay at what is supposed to be a summer vacation home.
In conclusion, Jane knows for sure that she is not at a vacation home, but a place for medical discernment with isolation. Author Binta's Zorro Pelin makes a claim in his article, “It has been determined that social support is a very important and protective factor in postpartum depression” (160.) The author is merely saying that when a person is going through an illness such as postpartum depression, they should not do it alone, to obtain progress. If one has a spouse one needs all support systems that they can get. Bintas Zorer also says, “Research shows that inadequate partner is an important risk factor for developing postpartum depression in women.” This statement proves that isolation, and having an absent spouse, does not help with a psychiatric illness; however, the symbolism of love from family can lead to recovery.
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