Narrative Essay on Postpartum Depression

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A 30-year-old mother of two in West Lafayette, Indiana states, 'It felt like a fog that descended on me, and I thought it would never leave,' The debilitating disease of Postpartum Depression causes the new mother to feel detached from their newborn child. During the first week of childbirth, mothers encounter symptoms such as intense irritability, insomnia, loss of appetite, and difficulting bonding with the newborn. A prevalent cure for downheartedness in the 19th century was an ineffective cure called “The Rest Cure.” This cure was believed to improve the mental and physical health of the mother by disconnecting them from healthy activities. Many women were seen as vulnerable to the way men belittled them and took control of their medical advice. The unknown main character, Jane, is restrained by her husband for her mental breakdowns after undergoing childbirth. Charlotte Perkins Gilman analyzes the theme of the “rest cure” in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” by converging to a focal point of diagnosing Jane with postpartum depression and demonstrating how the “rest cure” can disintegrate the mind and body when forced upon dehumanizing.

“The Yellow Wallpaper” enlightens readers on mental health, feminism, motherhood, and the “rest cure” throughout the short story. In the story, Jane’s husband, John, diagnoses his wife with a “slight hysterical tendency or nervous condition” (1). Employed as a physician, John’s medical advice is to avoid work and anything too stimulating known as the “rest cure.” Gilman criticizes any medical treatment beyond this cure. Jane was ambushed in an old nursery at the top of the house with “[repellent, revolting, smoldering]” yellow wallpaper (3). The room had a “[heavy bedstead]”, the windows were barred, and a gate was put at the top of the stairs where the nursery was located. (4). John manages to keep Jane in a subordinate role and forces her to become completely passive. John concludes that Jane can not make any decisions on her own because of her mental state. John, embarrassed, forces Jane to unwillingly hide all of her anxieties and fears to express her happiness in her marriage and child. The cure that John has advised Jane to attempt does not help her mental confusion, it only deepens it and provokes her sanity.

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The “resting cure” is an ineffective and barbarous cure for depression. A mind full of anxiety and disconnection can begin to disintegrate when forced into unenjoyable activities. While Jane is not allowed to connect with her family, write stories, or do activities she begins to see patterns in the disturbing wallpaper. She illustrates a recurrent spot of the wallpaper “like a broken neck and two bulbous eyes stare at you upside down” (5). Staring at the wallpaper makes Jane feel hallucination and she speculates herself becoming one with the wallpaper. She becomes fascinated with the design when she sees the exterior pattern. Jane becomes exhausted attempting to analyze her confusion. The “rest cure” causes Jane to envision women creeping in and out of the “[torturing patterns]” (9). Jane’s doppelganger could perhaps be the lady trapped behind the yellow walls.

Jane’s hallucination continues to evolve throughout the story and she begins to characterize the wallpaper in great detail. She describes the wallpaper as “[confusing to the eyes]” and when you are following the pattern and lines it suddenly makes you want to “[commit suicide]” (3). When the outside light changes from moonlight to daylight she establishes that there is a lady trapped behind the walls. Jane commences to see a figure who creeps and “shakes” the outer parts of the wall (9). The wallpaper continues to consume the wellbeing of Jane. The situational irony that is addressed in the story is the “rest cure” is the justification for Jane becoming insane due to the environment she was captured in. At the end of the story, Jane expresses, “I’ve got out at last.” (16). Within the wallpaper, Jane finds her inner self and freedom. When Jane is captured in a dehumanizing room, the room becomes the reason for her hallucinations.

When women in the 19th century experienced Postpartum Depression the effortless cure would have been the “rest cure.” Many doctors and specialized people believe this cure can cause women’s mental and physical health to increase while being enclosed in a room. Charlotte Perkins Gilman chose to express the main theme of “The Rest Cure” to expose the suffering and inhumanity she was put through when she suffered from Postpartum Depression. The straightforward cure of enclosing someone in a room became the reason for hallucinations and mental breakdowns. Jane experiences an encounter with herself and her freedom when the yellow wallpaper is torn off the walls. The theme “rest cure” is used throughout the novel to give the readers a description of what the main character, Jane, experiences through her time of Postpartum Depression. 

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Narrative Essay on Postpartum Depression. (2024, April 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 21, 2024, from
“Narrative Essay on Postpartum Depression.” Edubirdie, 18 Apr. 2024,
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