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Psychoanalytic Criticism is the theory that relates the author to the text. Embedded in the texts are the author’s own feelings, desires, and thoughts. Psychoanalytic Criticism was derived from Sigmund Freud’s theories of psychology. Freud believed that the unconscious mind affected an individual’s behaviour and these were brought on by childhood events. In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s case, it was in her early thirties when she started facing issues. Through “The Yellow Wallpaper”, Gilman uses her own experience to enlighten other women from being driven crazy from the rest treatment.
In “The Yellow Wallpaper”, the author Charlotte Perkins Gilman, depicts herself through Jane. Jane has what is known as postpartum depression and Charlotte Gilman Perkins suffered from “a severe and a continuous nervous breakdown.” (Atlas 2015). Both Perkins and Jane were given the “rest” treatment and were restricted from expressing themselves through writing. Perkins attempted the rest treatment for three months with no benefit to her depression. “I went home and obeyed those directions for some three months, and came so near the borderline of utter mental ruin that I could see over.” Perkins did not see illusions like Jane did, but she felt as though she was on the brink of insanity. She felt as if she was being restricted from anything creative. Jane is also displayed as such in “The Yellow Wallpaper”. “Resting” for long periods of time can drive anyone crazy. Many individuals seek some sort of action or attention to help distract themselves from any problems. When you’re left with your own thoughts you’re mind can wander to possibly negative ideas.
Women know themselves best.“John says if I don’t pick up faster he shall send me to Weir Mitchell in the fall.”(Gilman 476). Weir Mitchell is the real life doctor that treated Charlotte Gilbert Perkins for postpartum depression. In Jane’s case she is being treated by her husband John. Even though Charlotte Gilman Perkins uses a reference to the real life specialist that treated her, the message she tries to convey through Jane is that all men are similar when it comes to restricting the creative impulse of women. “I had a friend who was in his hands once, and she says he is just like John and my brother, only more so!”(Gilman 476). “Then, using the remnants of intelligence that remained, and helped by a wise friend, I cast the noted specialist’s advice to the winds and went to work again–work, the normal life of every human being; work, in which is joy and growth and service, without which one is a pauper and a parasite — ultimately recovering some measure of power.”(Atlas 2015). Perkins abandons the advice of the patriarchal figure, much like Jane does later when she is found ripping the yellow wallpaper. Perkins learns how to tackle postpartum depression and decides to write what is now “The Yellow Wallpaper.”
Once published, “The Yellow Wallpaper” had it’s criticism but also spread the truth.“The little book is valued by alienists and as a good specimen of one kind of literature. It has, to my knowledge, saved one woman from a similar fate–so terrifying her family that they let her out into normal activity and she recovered.”(Atlas 2015). Gilman’s book debunked the rest treatment. Others caught wind of the awareness of resting. Women decided to listen to a women’s advocate and it helped one woman seek relief. Even the specialist made a change to treatment for a diagnosis. “But the best result is this. Many years later I was told that the great specialist had admitted to friends of his that he had altered his treatment of neurasthenia since reading The Yellow Wallpaper. It was not intended to drive people crazy, but to save people from being driven crazy, and it worked.” Charlotte Perkins Gilman message passed through for the better. Not only did she save one woman, many others were possibly saved from the specialist changing his diagnosis procedure.
Psychoanalytic Criticism Theory in “The Yellow Wallpaper” gives the reader an understanding of how Charlotte Gilman Perkins felt with her own depression.
- Atlas, Nava. “‘Why I Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper’ by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.” Literary Ladies Guide, 2015, www.literaryladiesguide.com/literary-musings/charlotte-perkins-gilman-wrote-yellow-wallpaper/.
- Delahoyde, Michael. “Psychoanalytic Criticism.” Psychoanalytic Criticism. 26 June 2019 <https://public.wsu.edu/~delahoyd/psycho.crit.html>.
- Purdue Writing Lab. “Psychoanalytic Criticism // Purdue Writing Lab.” Purdue Writing Lab. 26 June 2019 <https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/subject_specific_writing/writing_in_literature/literary_theory_and_schools_of_criticism/psychoanalytic_criticism.html>.
- Gilman, Charlotte. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing, edited by X. J. Kennedy, Dana Gioia, Longman, 2012, pp. 472-483.
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