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Madness and Insanity in A Rose For Emily And The Yellow Wallpaper

Insanity in A Rose For Emily And The Yellow Wallpaper

Many of the upper class women in the Victorian era were assumed to be weaker than men, prone to frailties and ‘female problems’ and unable to think for themselves, valuable only as marriage bait. The two women in Faulkner’s and Gilman’s stories are victims of such assumptions. Emily in “A Rose For Emily” and the narrator of “The Yellow Wallpaper” are driven insane because they feel trapped by the men in their lives, and they retreat into their own worlds as an escape from reality, and finally rebel in the only ways they each can find.

Emily and ‘John’s wife,’ the woman in “The Yellow Wallpaper” who is never named, both feel stifled and suppressed by the men in authority over them. Emily, as a “slender figure in white…

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…he trap that society has placed them in.

Works Cited

Faulkner, William. “A Rose For Emily.” The Norton Introduction To Literature. Eds. Jerome Beaty and J. Paul Hunter. 7th Ed. New York, Norton, 1998. 1: 502-509.

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” The Norton Introduction To Literature. Eds. Jerome Beaty and J. Paul Hunter. 7th Ed. New York, Norton, 1998. 2: 630-642.

The Path into Madness in The Yellow Wallpaper

The Path into Madness in The Yellow Wallpaper

In the late 1800’s/early 1900’s, when Charlotte Perkins Gilman experienced her episode of “temporary nervous depression” (Gilman 885), and wrote her autobiographical short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the workings of the mind were mysteries that few medical people attempted to investigate. A patient who was poor and ill-educated and exhibiting signs of mental disorder was institutionalized — ala Bedlam. The patient who was rich, educated, and/or from a “good family” was called eccentric and given a prescription for complete mental rest and controlled physical exercise combined with the consumption of phosphorus enriched tonics. This regimen was to be followed in an environment that allowed the patient to ingest large quantities of clean fresh air (Gilman 885, 886). In her retrospective, the author was able to present a frighteningly candid view of the ineffectiveness of this last pattern of treatment.

Ms. Gilman’s heroine’s adventure into madness started with an onset of post partum depression. This fairly common side effect of childbirth comes at the time in her life when the woman (according to society) is supposed to be her happiest, most satisfied self. However, with her mind suffering from the effects of her body’s frantic attempt to realign its chemical components into a balanced state, the new mother is confronted by moods that are the antithesis of the euphoria she is told she should be feeling. This juxtaposition of expected and experienced emotions can create tremendous guilt in a woman, even a very strong woman. To mitigate this guilt, the mind can develop a psychosis, such as delusional disorder. Ms. Gilman was very perceptive in looking at he…

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… this case — unenlightened) treatment, progressing into dementia. And she created this scenario years, if not decades, before medical science understood the relationship between the various parts of her heroine’s — and her own — path into madness.

Works Cited

Danford, Darla Erhard. “Pica and Nutrition.” Annual Review of Nutrition Issue 2 (1982): 303 – 322.

Decker, Chris J., MD, FRSCS. “Pica in the Mentally Handicapped: A 15 – Year Surgical Perspective.” Canadian Journal of Surgery 36.6 (1993): 551 – 554.

DSM – IV Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fourth edition. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association, 1994. 290 – 301.

Gilmore, Charlotte Perkins. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Being and Becoming. Anne Mills King, and Sandra Kurtinitis editors. New York, NY: McGraw – Hill Publishing Company, 1987. 886 – 892.

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