Is The Yellow Wallpaper a true story?

Answered by Jarrod Smith

“The Yellow Wallpaper” is a fascinating and thought-provoking short story written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in 1892. While it is not a true story in the literal sense, it does draw heavily from Gilman’s own personal experiences and reflects the societal expectations and struggles faced by women during that time period.

The story follows a young woman who is suffering from what is implied to be postpartum depression or a similar mental illness. She is confined to a room with yellow wallpaper, which becomes a symbol of her deteriorating mental state and the oppressive nature of the society she lives in.

While “The Yellow Wallpaper” is not an exact retelling of Gilman’s own life, it is certainly semi-autobiographical. Gilman herself struggled with depression and was prescribed the “rest cure,” a treatment often prescribed to women during that era. This treatment involved complete isolation and inactivity, which only worsened Gilman’s mental health.

In the story, the protagonist’s husband, John, is a physician who believes in the rest cure and confines her to the room with the yellow wallpaper. This mirrors Gilman’s own experience with her physician husband, who supported the rest cure treatment. The protagonist’s feelings of frustration, powerlessness, and the sense of being trapped within her own mind are likely reflections of Gilman’s own experiences.

Additionally, the story addresses the societal expectations placed upon women during that time period. The protagonist is expected to be a dutiful wife and mother, suppressing her own desires and needs for the sake of her family’s reputation. This theme of societal oppression is something that Gilman herself felt strongly about and wrote about in many of her other works.

While “The Yellow Wallpaper” is not a true story in the conventional sense, it is deeply rooted in Gilman’s own personal experiences and the struggles faced by women in the late 19th century. It serves as a powerful critique of the societal norms and expectations placed upon women, as well as an exploration of mental health and the effects of oppressive treatment.