Assignment: „The Yellow Wallpaper“: Autobiography or fiction? Regarding the first supporting evidence where this short story is regarded as an important work of feminist literature that illustrates the attitudes of the 19th century towards women, more specifically their mental and physical health which the author tried to show according to her personal experience.
The short story is actually a first personal journal entry that was written by a woman whose husband was a physician that had confined her to a bedroom that he had rented for the summer. The women is forbidden to work and therefore she has to hide when she is writing in her journal because the husband believes that in this way she could recover from what he calls a “temporary nervous depression—a slight hysterical tendency;” which was also a common diagnosis to women in the 19th century.
Furthermore, this story depicts the effect of confinement on the storyteller’s mental health, which is the woman and her fall into obsession because she has nothing to stimulate her so she becomes obsessed by the pattern and the color of the wallpaper. In the end, the woman imagines that there are other women creeping around behind the patters of the wallpaper, and comes to believe that she is one of them. The woman locks herself in the room with the torn yellow wallpaper and feels that now that it is the only place where she feels safe and refuses to leave.
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There are supporting elements within the story that makes the story an autobiography and not a fictional story. In my opinion, the way that the author writes in such detail and in such craze about the wallpaper only gives me proof that the author herself experienced this craze of obsession over petty things for the simple reason of being confined and not having anything better to do since she was on “rest cure” and was not allowed to be with her child, work or even write.
Basically, the details that the author writes about how something simple, like wallpaper can cause an obsession can only be written by a person that actually experienced such a feeling in such a situation as written in the story. Considering the second supporting evidence that Gilman herself gives a statement on why she wrote “The Yellow Wallpaper”. The author explained that the idea for the story originated from her own personal experience as a patient and also stating that “the real purpose of the story was to reach
Dr. S. Weir Mitchell (who was mentioned in the story itself) in order to convince him of the error in of his ways. ” Gilman had suffered from years of being depressed, and talked to a physician specializing in the "rest cure. " He put her on a rest cure, advising her to live as domestic as possible and was forbidden to touch and doing anything that would stimulate her brain. After three months and almost completely giving up, Gilman decided to go against her diagnosis and continue to work and stimulate her mind again.
And after she had realized how close she had come to the worst mental illness, she wrote "The Yellow Wallpaper" with additions and exaggerations to illustrate her point of misdiagnosis. In conclusion, “The Yellow Wallpaper” is an exaggerated account of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s personal experiences where after being diagnosed and put on the “rest cure” she eventually felt herself beginning to go slowly insane from the inactivity.
However, unlike the protagonist in her story, Gilman did not reach the point of total madness, but she knew that her deteriorating mental condition was due to the oppressive medical regime that was meant to “cure” her. In addition, Dr. Mitchell and his treatment play a key role in the story in the third section of the text where the protagonist’s husband even threatens to send her to Weir Mitchell in the fall if she does not recover soon.
According to the above arguments and the supporting facts, it can only be stated that it can be nothing more than an autobiography consisting of exaggerated accounts of what the author was going through personally and thus giving the short story fictional elements. However, the short story is an autobiography for the simple reason of it being based on actual events and perceptions of the author, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, even if it consists of exaggerated and thus fictional elements.
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