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The Downward Spiral Into Insanity Essay

1211 words - 5 pages

Comp II
The Downward Spiral into Insanity
Only recently have doctors been able to even begin to comprehend the effects mental illness have on people’s ability to understand, rationalize, and react to the world around them. As late as fifty years ago most mental patients were not being treated effectively, often times simply being put into confinement. Often, the treatments mental patients sought would only serve to exacerbate their conditions. The author of The Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, had a nervous breakdown early on in her life, and through this experience she realized first-hand that the medical practices of her time regarding the mentally ill were severely lacking. ...view middle of the document...

The narrator throughout the story is unnamed but through her journal entries we are given a clear, intimate insight into the workings of her mind. Her condition is briefly touched upon but never given a specific name. Her husband, a physician, believes her to simply be in need of rest and as such forbids her to do anything that could “worsen” her already fragile mental health. She does not resist these instructions because: “If a physician of high standing, and one's own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression--a slight hysterical tendency-- what is one to do?” The woman keeps journal entries to pass her time while in “confinement”, breaking one of the rules her husband gave her in the process, and through these entries the reader is given a clear view into her mental state at the point in time she is writing them. The tonal shifts in-between these entries are subtle but effectively employed so the reader can almost see how deep the narrator’s illness runs. The more the woman examines the wallpaper in her room, the more her imagination runs wild upon it. “…I can see a strange, provoking, formless sort of figure, that seems to skulk about behind that silly and conspicuous front design.” The woman’s condition continues to deepen and while the written entries read rationally – this is a key point - it isn’t until one gives them a deeper reading that the truth of the woman’s mental stability is put to light. For example: “I lie here on this great immovable bed--it is nailed down, I believe--and follow that pattern about by the hour. It is as good as gymnastics, I assure you. I start, we'll say, at the bottom, down in the corner over there where it has not been touched, and I determine for the thousandth time that I will follow that pointless pattern to some sort of a conclusion.” At first glance, the writer is simply stating her interest in the atrocious design of the wallpaper, but upon re-reading the first hints of obsession become clear. Yet, these hints of illness go deeper still in the form of subtle, almost meaningless trivia the narrator chooses to write about.
While the subtle hints of how bad the narrator’s mental health becomes as time goes on are inherent in the narrator’s thoughts, the hardest evidence comes...

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