This week, I went back in time to take a look at a story that comes up in discussions of mental health in literature, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I’ve read the story a bunch of times in various settings, particularly in a class on American Literature, and I always see something different in it. This time, the need for autonomy came to the front.
“The Yellow Wallpaper” was written in 1890 in response to Gilman’s experience with postpartum depression following the birth of her daughter. The story is about a woman who is locked in a room by her husband (who is also her doctor) following the birth of their child. She is driven to distraction by the ugly yellow wallpaper in the room, which eventually causes her to have a nervous breakdown.