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Mental illness looms large over both Charlotte Bronte's Villette and Charlotte Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper." Within both works, there is a determined exploration of the intricacies of the human mind and the extent to which external factors can contribute to the development of mental distress/mental illness…
This essay will argue that both Gillman and Bronte project mental disorder as a consequence of the female condition and, most particularly, her silencing and isolation.
In "The Yellow Wallpaper," the protagonist is married to the physician who also treats her for post-partum depression using the rest cure. Instead of curing her, the treatment worsens her condition. Crucial to the progression of the patient's illness is both the physician and the husband's expectations of her and their disregard for her reaction to those expectations. The narrator says that she is married, sick, and her husband is her physician: "John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage John is a physician, and perhaps that is one reason I do not get well faster. You see he does not believe I am sick!" (Gilman 10). Implied is John's failure, as husband and physician, to listen to his wife's beliefs that she is ill. When the wife sees that there is agreement between her husband and physician, both figures gain additional authority. In addition to that dual authority, the patient's submission is encouraged by her role as wife, which requires her to be dutifully submissive, even to medical treatment that harms her.
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