Wild Unrest: Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the Making of The Yellow Wall-Paper

Wild Unrest: Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the Making of The Yellow Wall-Paper by Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz

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In Wild Unrest, Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz offers a vivid portrait of Charlotte Perkins Gilman in the 1880s, drawing new connections between the authors life and work and illuminating the predicament of women then and now. The Yellow Wall-Paper captured a womans harrowing descent into madness and drew on the authors intimate knowledge of mental illness. Like the narrator of her story, Gilman was a victim of what was termed neurasthenia or hysteria--a bad case of the nerves. She had faced depressive episodes since adolescence, and with the arrival of marriage and motherhood, they deepened. In 1887 she suffered a severe breakdown and sought the rest cure of famed neurologist S. Weir Mitchell. Her marriage was a troubled one, and in the years that followed she separated from and ultimately divorced her husband. It was at this point, however, that Gilman embarked on what would become an influential career as an author, lecturer, and advocate for womens rights. Horowitz draws on a treasure trove of primary sources to illuminate the making of The Yellow Wall-Paper: Gilmans journals and letters, which closely track her daily life and the reading that most influenced her; the voluminous diaries of her husband, Walter Stetson, which contain verbatim transcriptions of conversations with and letters from Charlotte; and the published work of S. Weir Mitchell, whose rest cure dominated the treatment of female hysteria in late 19th century America. Horowitz argues that these sources ultimately reveal that Gilmans great story emerged more from emotions rooted in the confinement and tensions of her unhappy marriage than from distress following Mitchells rest cure. Wild Unrest adds immeasurably to our understanding of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, uncovering both the literary and personal sources behind The Yellow Wall-Paper.
Publication Date:
28 / 10 / 2010

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