Throughout time, mental illness was misunderstood and treated with disregard of the patient. The only way this illness was treated was by locking up the patient in a room. This may be a reason what is known as postpartum depression today was known as hysteria in the late 19th century. Postpartum depression is depression suffered by a mother after birth, while hysteria is exaggerated or uncontrolled emotions. Compared to how women are treated now and how they were treated back then it was worse in the late 19th century. Women were treated as insane or unworthy. In “The Yellow Wallpaper”, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman we see this happening.
The narrator of this story seems to be in some type of insanity, but as we read on we see that in reality she is going through postpartum depression. The narrator is left alone with no one to talk to or nothing to do, so she starts to get obsessed with the yellow wallpaper. Hysteria cases occurred during the late 1800’s and the 1900’s. This was what women were diagnosed with because of their emotional and delicate ways. Medical professionals claimed that women were prone to hysteria and in order for them to get better they had to be confined in a room of some sort and could not do anything or be around anyone, which was called “bed rest”.
Symptoms for hysteria are partial paralysis, hallucinations, inability to eat or sleep, and nervousness. As women were kept confined in these rooms, they got worse and worse until the depression caught up with them and they went completely insane. Another major part of hysteria is how women were treated in the late 19th century. Women barely had rights over themselves and if they would “over-react” as some people would say, than they would be diagnosed with hysteria. Postpartum depression is a serious illness that may occur in the first few months after childbirth and can also happen after miscarriage and stillbirth, as said in.
http://www. webmd. com/depression/postpartum-depression/postpartum-depression-topic-overview . The symptoms are hallucinations, delusions, rapid mood swings, inability or refusal to eat or sleep, suicidal thoughts or actions, inability to care for the child etc.. Postpartum depression is something that can be life threatening to the person going through it and people around them. These people need to have a little free time for them, they need to try to keep a diary or journal of their daily feelings, ask others for help if they need it, get rest, and do something relaxing for themselves.
Postpartum depression and hysteria do have some common symptoms but they are very different. In “The Yellow Wallpaper”, we see that she has a lot more of the symptoms from postpartum depression than hysteria. She chooses to not eat or sleep, she cannot care for her child, she is delusional, and is hallucinating especially about the yellow wallpaper in her room. But her husband, who is a physician is treating her as if she has a case of a nervous condition. He locks her away in the top room of the house and that’s when she starts to get worse.
In the beginning of the story she starts to explain the house they are staying in, and then she says that “You see he does not believe I am sick! And what can one do? 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? ” This shows how she has a feeling it is worse than what her husband assumes it can be but does not say anything because she believes in him as a physician and as her husband.
As this story progresses, we soon realize that it isn’t only a nervous depression as her husband says. She continues to explain the complete house and the room she is to stay in, she explains how the windows have bars, the bed is screwed to the floor, and how she thinks it was a nursery or a young boys room. She also explains the yellow wallpaper on the walls and how it has this funny look to it she just can’t explain what it is. She writes about how her husband doesn’t let her write or doesn’t let her do anything.
She goes on with the wallpaper and how it makes her feel. During the middle of the story she keeps talking about the wallpaper, she says it has a weird look to it and cannot understand what it is but she has to figure it out. She starts to explain it like this “The color is repellent, almost revolting; a smoldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight. It is a dull yet lurid orange in some places, a sickly sulphur tint in others. No wonder the children hated it! I should hate it myself if I had to live in this room long”.
She starts to get more and more delusional and starts to see a shadow in the wallpaper, a shadow of a women. In the end, she ends up going crazy and locking herself in the room. She says how she will wait until John gets home to show him what she has done to the room. She started to tear down all the yellow wallpaper to save the women behind it. After she ripped most of it off, she started to think she was the women in the wallpaper that she imagined, “I wonder if they all come out of that wall-paper as I did?but I am securely fastened now by my well-hidden rope–you don’t get ME out in the road there!
I suppose I shall have to get back behind the pattern when it comes night, and that is hard! ”. When John gets home he wants her to open the door but all she can tell him is the key is under a plantain leaf. She repeats that several times until he breaks down the door and sees what she has done. When he asked her what was wrong she replied “I’ve got out at last, in spite of you and Jane. And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back! ”.