Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The mind is a thing so complex in its many facets that I’m sure we can never fully understand it. Remove from that fragile thing, your mind, clarity and peace and suddenly you are thrown into a frightening place you didn’t ever wish to see. It is easy, and perhaps the human condition, if you find yourself in such a place to seek out excuses and reasons. We are ever the curious sort. I speak not as an observer, but as an experienced facilitator to such obstruction of our minds.

Dealing with depression and the dark things that follow in its wake is not anything I expected or wished to deal with, in my life. I am 23. I thought I would be young and invincible . . .  forever. I have good days. I have bad days. I have great, awesome bursting your heart days. I have cry myself to sleep and beg not to wake up days. Until I get better or maybe to cope, I will forever be asking myself where did things go wrong?

It seems to me that Charlotte Perkins Gilman decided why not blame the easiest and obvious source for my troubles, men. I can’t fully comprehend what life must have been like then for women, by God’s grace I never will. One or two men in one woman’s life cannot and should not account for all men being painted the tyrants they are.

Women you’ve helped to give me what I have today, a form of equality with men. Guess what? I didn’t ask for it. I never petitioned you to go before me and the world screaming your rights, that they are just as important as the male species, if not more. I work. I can vote. I write this blog. I can get an education and so on. In working I’ve enabled the monster that grows within me. I’m killing my passion, squelching my creativity, and I’m being consumed by depression. All I ever asked for was protection and to me that came in the form of a husband to be married and provided love, home, and the future of children. You’ve done a bang up job in prolonging those dreams. In the process of freeing me and my sisters before, you’ve emasculated men, creating weak little boys to run around in their place. I’m left to spinster my life to a job that robs me of sanity.

In these pages, though I’m to glean is the man’s fault. The male dominated society, who are to blame for these “problems.” There will always be rotten men amongst the good. We live in a fallen world, but maybe our time should be spent figuring why we as women can’t buckle down to the task at hand. Instead we bitch and moan that we are restless, dissatisfied, tired, imprisoned. Shut up. You know how you grow, how you deal with the hand you’ve been dealt? Think on working through it and with it, your situation, rather than how to escape. Where does anyone say you have to love housework or the like? Let’s be efficient, get it done, and move on with pleasing tasks: reading, writing, art, etc.

I opened the book with a clear thought, read slowly and try to be understanding. Coming from someone who already deals with clarity, that’s asking a lot.

Mrs. Perkins Gilman’s writing, if anything is convincing in the portrayal of the insanity of the main character. The spoutings of a lunatic hit a little to close to home.

In the afterword the story was best described as a ‘Poe-esque’ tale. I can’t think for the life of me what is or was self-empowering about such a story. The story itself left me mentally agitated and confused, disquieted even.

The afterword was repetitive for me and not the least bit convincing of the feminist argument. It was a rant, confusing, and incessant in the “evils” of men. At one point she, Elaine R. Hedges, says:

“The stance of the narrator is all, and it is a very complex stance indeed, since she is ultimately mad and yet, throughout her descent into madness, in many ways more sensible than the people who surround and cripple her. As she tells her story, the reader has confidence in the reasonableness of her arguments and explanations.”

Here’s the “reasonableness” I glean, you’re mad, insane, and in no way do you make more sense than those around you. Hello! Hitler was a disturbed man, but in everything he endured I can understand where he was coming from. (end sarcasm) Wake up, that’s twisted!

Coming from a background of leaning toward the unconventional when it comes to the medical world, I can say the husband in this story was almost on the right track. You don’t know what I would give for a quiet break in the country. However, lethargy, which this woman’s husband insists upon, only breeds further mental dysfunction. He was a product of the time’s view on such things. Insane? Lock them up.

I remember being told that Harriet Beecher Stowe’s father (the author was related to her) when he was anxious and couldn’t seem to clear his mind, he would go to the basement and shovel sand from one side of the room to the other. End result? Peace, clarity, and calmness of the mind.

What this woman needed was for someone to say stop sleeping and take care of your child. Cook a meal, do some laundry, and gently move back into a “normal life.”

When Virginia Woolf’s anxiety and depression became too much, the doctor’s prescription: take her to the quiet country to rest and eat fresh fruits and vegetables. The result? She began to feel better, until the war hit. The fresh food in such high demand elsewhere became harder to acquire. It was downhill from there.

I can’t say or agree that a woman’s insanity is blamed on the supposed “dictatorial” manner of men. As for the author it seems to me she was more communist than feminist.

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