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Exploring Rest Cure Therapy in The Yellow Wallpaper

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Exploring Rest Cure Therapy in The Yellow Wallpaper


Rest was used as a cure for neurasthenia, but did it really work? "The Yellow Wallpaper" explores the concept of rest cure therapy and its effectiveness on a woman patient. The best-known doctor for treating neurasthenia was a highly regarded neurologist named Silas Weir Mitchell (Kivo 8). Women from all over the world traveled to the United States to be treated by Silas Weir Mitchell (5). Rest cure therapy included secluding the patient from family and friends and complete physical and intellectual rest (5). Many women who followed Mitchell's treatment plan returned to their families cured, but there were some women whose symptoms became worse after being treated by Mitchell or after being restricted to bed rest.

Many women did not benefit from rest. In "The Yellow Wallpaper," Jane, the protagonist, is put on bed rest after giving birth to her baby. She is prescribed bed rest from her doctor and husband, John (6). John secludes her from family and friends by renting a rundown country home for the summer (6). She is to have total bed rest while at the country home. John said that Jane "was to have perfect rest" (Gilman, 14). As the summer progresses, Jane's condition becomes increasingly worse, and she begins to hallucinate. She thinks that she sees things moving on the yellow wallpaper in the room that she is staying in. Jane says, "The pattern does move-and no wonder! The woman behind shakes it!" (23). The therapy causes Jane to retreat into madness (Kivo 6). Jane's madness becomes apparent when the woman behind the wall and Jane start to tear all the yellow wallpaper from the walls of the room (25). Jane's condition deteriorate...


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...herapy. Rest cures did not always work on all women. There were some patients like Jane who became worse while others like Addams and Gilman had to find their own ways of suppressing or curing their depression. Depression, or neurasthenia, was not always curable and has affected many people all over the world. While rest cures were the most common cure for depression, sometimes this procedure was not effective.

Works Cited

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. "The Yellow Wallpaper." The Harcourt Brace Casebook Series in Literature. Ed. Carol Kivo.Forth Worth: Harcourt Brace, 1998. 13-27.

Kivo, Carol, ed. "The Yellow Wallpaper:" The Harcourt Brace Casebook Series in Literature. Forth Worth: Harcourt Brace, 1998. 2-12.

Poirier, Suzanne. "The Weir Mitchell rest cure: doctor and patients." Women's Studies. 1983 10(1): 15-40. <Galileo online>


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