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A Method to Her Madness

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A Method to Her Madness

"The Yellow Wallpaper," written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in 1899, the author takes the reader on quite a surprising journey. At first glance, this narrated story about a woman suffering from post-partum depression seems to be the rantings of a deranged soul. Further inquiry into the mind of this courageous narrator leads to the discovery that she has a method to her madness, in particular the portrayal of the main character's insanity and how, through her insanity, she initiates a plan of action to regain control of her sanity.

In the midst of her depression, she has a constant pattern of coherent thoughts about how to handle her illness. She is aware of her fragile state and on many occasions tries to talk to her husband about her worsening condition. He brushes of her concerns as "excited fancies". She shares her frustration with the reader, "you see he does not believe" ... "sick," but "what is one to do?" Clearly she realizes that meekly submitting to the will of her husband is strangling her hold on reality. Her resolve to beat depression ultimately wins out. To reclaim control of her sanity she puts her plan to action.

She initiates her plan when she "locked the door" and threw "the key" away. Her forethought to get the key and lock herself in the room until John gets home shows her determination to follow through with her plan. Moreover, she did not keep the key but chose to throw it outside demonstrating her resolve to see this through. No one enters and no one leaves, she is locked inside to face her insanity.

Her thoughts sway back and forth like tree branches during a violent storm, ready "to jump out of the window" one moment, but rational enough the next to know she "wouldn't do it". The battle rages as she contemplates the "creeping women" outside her window, others imagined or not, like her struggling with post-partum depression. She notices how "they creep so fast" into insanity and with all this rest and nothing to work the mind, she fears the same will happen to her. Realizing her plan could send her over the edge, she "securely fastened" herself with the "well-hidden rope." The "rope" is a security device to protect her from herself. Tethered safely in her room where she "can creep smoothly on the floor," she seeks to gain control of her sanity, "so I cannot lose my way." Not losing her way is important to her because it allows her to be in control.

The significance of the declaration "I must get to work" is powerful; she is contemplating work even though any form of physical activity goes against the advice of her husband. Is she talking about the actual work of removing the wallpaper or the mental effort of facing her madness? I feel she is referring to both, as one is deeply entwined with the other. From day one, she hates the wallpaper and asks repeatedly to be allowed to move "downstairs" or have the paper removed, to no avail. Alone much of her time with nothing to stimulate her mind, she has become fixated on the wallpaper. She will focus her work ridding the walls and her mind of these "torturing" patterns. No matter how insane her action may seem to others, she is taking what control she can of her situation. She is taking matters into her own hands.

Upon John's arrival ordering her to open the door. She is surprisingly lucid, almost mocking him about "how he does call and pound," as he cries



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