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Schizophrenia and The Yellow Wallpaper

            "The Yellow Wallpaper" was written in 1892 by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The story is told as a first person narrative. It depicts a young woman revealing her innermost thoughts in a series of journal entries over a three month span. The narrator and her husband, John, have just had a beautiful baby boy, and rent a large colonial estate for the summer. From the beginning of this story, she feels the house is haunted. John rented the estate because he felt it would be an appropriate place for her to recover from a "temporary nervous depression-a slight hysterical tendency (Gilman). She is confined to bed rest in a former nursery coated in yellow wallpaper and is forbidden from any mental stimulation, just rest. She starts to perceive images moving within the walls. In the end she, rips off the wallpaper, freeing a woman whom she had been seeing shaking the bars in the pattern violently night after night. If schizophrenia were better understood back then, her mental deterioration could have possibly been prevented.
             Charlotte Perkins Gilman was born on July 3, 1860 in Hartford, Connecticut. She was a prominent American short story and non-fiction writer, as well as a social activist. She married Charles Stetson in 1884, and the two had a daughter a short time after. Sometime during her marriage, she experienced a severe depression and underwent unusual treatments for it. This is believed to be the inspiration for "The Yellow Wallpaper." In 1935 Gilman, "finished her final piece, her autobiography, and on August 17, 1935 she committed suicide with a dose of chloroform that she had been accumulating for some time" (Reuben). The narrator displays common signs of depression but her symptoms evolve into schizophrenic behavior, illustrated by her identification with a woman within the walls who seems to be clawing her way out of the grotesque yellow wallpaper surrounding the room.

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