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Research Paper Over Post Partum Depression And The Yellow Wallpaper

Postpartum Depression

In Charlotte Perkin Gilman’sThe Yellow Wallpaper the woman had an unknown illness. In today’s world readers could assume her illness to be Postpartum Depression. Although, it is unknown how she got this depression I myself personally believe it is due to the birth of her child which is very common in today’s world. Back then with no women doctors this condition was falsely diagnosed so women did not get the treatment that they needed. Today luckily for women there is treatment. Some celebrity mothers have even gotten Postpartum Depression after their children were born and have fought it. With the woman in the yellow wallpaper she did not get the right help so she lost her mind. Her illness grew worse and made her crazy.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman herself was treated for Post Partum Depression after the birth of her daughter. So that could of helped her write this story from actually being in the same situation.

Some symptoms of Post Partum Depression include:

Hallucinations                                                                        Suicidal thoughts or actions
Delusions                                                                                  Confusion and Disorientation
Extreme agitation or anxiety                                           Rapid mood swings
Bizarre behavior                                                                   Inability or refusal to eat or sleep
Thoughts of harming or killing your baby                 Over worrying about the baby or not at all

in The Yellow Wallpaper the main woman has hallucinations of the woman from the wallpaper.

“I see her on the long road under the trees, creeping along, and when a carriage comes she hides under the blackberry vines.” (272).

She worries about the baby, but she cannot be with him.

“It is fortunate Mary is so good with the baby. Such a dear baby! And yet I can not be with him, it makes me so nervous.” (266).

As well as rapid mood swings.
 “I cry at nothing and cry most of the time.” (268).

Back then the only cure seemed to be the rest cure. The rest cure was basically that women were delicate and needed rest. “The rest cure usually lasted six to eight weeks. It involved isolation from friends and family. It also enforced bed rest, and nearly constant feeding on a fatty, milk-based diet. Patients were force-fed if necessary – effectively reduced to the dependency of an infant. Nurses cleaned and fed them, and turned them over in bed. Doctors used massage and electrotherapy to maintain muscle tone. Patients were sometimes prohibited from talking, reading, writing and even sewing”

In today’s world treatment for Post Partum Depression is:
Individual or Marriage counseling
Hormone Therapy
Support from others
Trying to sleep, eat ,exercise
Express feelings

In 2003 Brooke Shields went through Postpartum Depression after the birth of her daughter.

She wrote a book on her battle with the disease.


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Postpartum Depression in The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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Postpartum Depression in The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

In “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the unnamed
protagonist is suffering from postpartum depression, which is caused by the
rapid changes in levels of hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and
thyroid due to the birth of a child. This depression can be brought on by
stress and isolation right after birth. In this short story the protagonist was
brushed of by her husband John, who is a medical doctor as having a
temporary nervous condition. In this situation, if the protagonist was
effectively treated instead of being isolated, which allowed the depression to
escalate to a severe form, she would have steadily gotten better. Instead
the protagonist began to develop postpartum psychosis, which is the most
severe postpartum reaction. During this time “woman will experience a break
with reality which may include the experience of hallucinations and/or
delusions. Other symptoms may include severe insomnia, agitation, and
bizarre feelings and behavior” (Depression After Delivery, Inc. 3).
“The Yellow Wallpaper” takes place in the late eighteen hundreds when
psychological disorders were dismissed as temporary nervous conditions, and
unless there was something physically wrong with the person, the individual
had to be isolated from any stimulating activities. Isolation seemed to be
the best antidote for psychological disorders in the late eighteen hundreds,
although, it only made the disorder worse. John only worsens his wife’s
disorder by taking her away for the summer and placing her in an old house
that is “quite alone, standing well back from the road, quite three miles from
the village” (Barrett 193). John once again isolates his wife from any
stimulating activities and forbids her to work...”and am absolutely forbidden
to “work” until I am well again” (Barrett 192). The protagonist personally
disagrees with their ideas when she states, “that congenial work, with
excitement and change would do me good” (Barrett 192). John did not allow
her to write either, although, “[she] did write for a while in spite of them”
(Barrett 193), but she did not dare let John or his sister Jennie catch her
One of the first symptoms of postpartum psychosis is the experience of
hallucinations, which are “sensory perceptual distortions, such as seeing,
hearing, smelling, feeling or tasting sensations that others would not sense
and do not exist outside of ones perception” (Depression After Delivery, Inc.
3) and delusions, which are false fixed beliefs. The protagonist begins to get
hallucinations/delusions when she unwillingly accepts the upstairs nursery
instead of the downstairs room that opened into a piazza and had roses all

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over the window. She illustrates this by saying, “But John would not hear of
it. He said there was only one window and not room for two beds, and no
near room for him if he took another” (Barrett 193). Once situated in the
room she develops a fixation for the yellow wallpaper. The protagonist
begins to follow the pattern about by the hour. She starts “at the bottom,
down in the corner over there where it has not been touched, and I determine
for the thousandth time that I will follow that pointless patter to some sort of
conclusion” (Barrett 197). Finally, from being in that room so long she begins
the hallucinations. This is noticed when the protagonist points out that
the front pattern does move-and no wonder! The woman
behind shakes it! Sometimes I think there are a great many
women behind, and sometimes only one, and she crawls
around fast, and her crawling shakes it all over. Then in the
very bright spots she keeps still, and in the very shady spots
she just takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard. And
she is all the time trying to climb through. But nobody could
climb through that pattern-it strangles so; I think that is why it
has so many heads. Then the protagonist continues by
saying, I think that woman gets out in the daytime! And I’ll
tell you why-privately-I’ve seen her! (Barrett 202)
As these hallucinations are going on the protagonist keeps these emotions
bottled-up and doesn’t allow anyone to be aware that she is having them.
Another symptom that the protagonist has is severe insomnia, which is
difficulty in initiating or maintaining sleep. She shows her inability to sleep
when she says, “ he thought I was asleep first, but I wasn’t, and lay there for
hours trying to decide whether that front pattern and the back pattern really
did move together or separately” (Barrett 199). The protagonist consistently
stays awake at night staring at the wallpaper pattern on the wall. John then
sees the need for his wife to sleep more, so he makes her lie down an hour
after each meal. The protagonist feels this is a very bad habit when she
says, “It is a very bad habit, I am convinced, for you see, I don’t sleep”
(Barrett 200). The protagonist doesn’t sleep well at night either, due to her
growing fixation with the wallpaper... “I don’t sleep much at night, for it is so
interesting to watch developments” (Barrett 200).
The third symptom that the protagonist is suffering from is agitation,
which are feelings that often excite or trouble ones mind. The protagonist
seems to become angry with her husband John very often now, although, he
has not done anything wrong to agitate his wife.
I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes. I’m sure I
never use to be so sensitive. I think it is due to this nervous
condition. But John says if I feel so I shall neglect proper
self-control; so I take pains to control myself-before him, at
least, and that makes me very tired. (Barrett 193)
The protagonist starts to become agitated with the yellow wallpaper as she
continues to stare at the wall. “I get positively angry with the impertinence
of it and the everlastingness. Up and down and sideways they crawl, and
those absurd unblinking eyes are everywhere” (Barrett 195).
The protagonist also demonstrates bizarre (strikingly out of the
ordinary) feelings and behavior. She illustrates this behavior by constant
crying for no apparent reason. “I cry at nothing, and cry most of the time”
(Barrett 196). The wallpaper seems to continuously dwell her mind, which is
bizarre in itself, because no one should by obsessed over nonsense things
like wallpaper. “It dwells my mind so” (Barrett 196)! The protagonist also
starts to become unusually weak... “half the time now I am awfully lazy, and
lie down ever so much” (Barrett 197). She continued to demonstrate her
bizarre behavior when she said, “this bed will not move! I tried to lift and
push it until I was lame, and then I got so angry I bit off a little piece at one
corner-but it hurt my teeth” (Barrett 203). She even contemplates jumping out
of the window... “I am getting angry enough to do something desperate. To
jump out of the window would be and admirable exercise, but the bars are
too strong even to try” (Barrett 204).
Towards the end of the story the protagonist reaches complete mental
instability. At this point the protagonist has reached the worst part of her
disorder. She presents this instability when she says, “I wonder if they come
out of the wallpaper as I did” (Barrett 204). At this time she is confusing
reality with her imagination. “I suppose I shall have to get back behind the
pattern when it comes night, and that is hard” (Barrett 204)! The main reason
of this statement isn’t just her madness, but it is how she feels. The
protagonist feels that she can be herself during the day when John is not
around, but at night she has to pretend to be a totally different person.
At the end of the story John and Jennie become aware of what is going on
with her.
“What is the matter?’ he cried. “For God’s sake, what are you
doing!” I kept on creeping just the same, but I looked at him
over my shoulder. “I’ve got out at last” said I, “In spite of you
and Jane. And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t
put me back!” No way should the man have fainted? But he
did, and right across my path by the wall so that I had to
creep over him every time! (Barrrett 204)
Throughout “The Yellow Wallpaper”, Gilman makes it evident that the
protagonist is suffering from some type of postpartum reaction, that has been
left untreated by her husband. She was able to vividly portray a woman’s
descent into madness, due to her own fit with a similar disorder. Gilman
wrote the story to effect change in the treatment of depressive women. She
once stated “It was not intended to drive people crazy, but to save people
from being driven crazy” (Barrett 185).


Works Cited

Barrett, Eileen and Mary Cullinan, ed. American Women Writers: Diverse
Voices In Prose Since 1845. New York: St. Martin’s. 1992.
Depression After Delivery, Inc. Depression After Delivery. Belle Mead, New
Jersey. 1996.

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