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Questioning the Validity of Medical Community's Beliefs in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Short Story The Yellow Wallpaper
Word Count: 3,468
Charlotte Perkins Gilmans short story The Yellow Wallpaper has been historically viewed as either a work of supernatural horror or as a feminist treatise regarding the role of women in society A close analysis of Gilmans use of symbols reveals The Yellow Wallpaper as her response to the misogynist view of hysteria from ancient times through the nineteenth century In The Yellow Wallpaper Gilman questions the validity of Hippocratess theory of the wandering uterus and Weir Mitchells rest cure As she wrote in her essay Why I Wrote the Yellow Wallpaper the story was not intended to drive people crazy but to save people from being driven crazy 107 By her own account Gilmans purpose in writing The Yellow Wallpaper was to educate and inform the public of the misinterpretation of hysterical symptoms The origin of the word hysteria expresses the belief in the inferiority of women As James Palis writes in The Hippocratic Concept of Hysteria A Translation of the Original Texts Etymologically the term usteria hysteria derives from ustera hystera the Greek word for uterus which means an inferior position Thus usteria denotes suffering of the uterus the most inferior organ in the female 226 The fact that the literal translation of hystera is inferior position reinforces the fact that from ancient times women were viewed as physically inferior to men Since the one major physical difference between women and men is the presence of the uterus psychological problems that were considered to be strictly female were attributed to some malfunction of the uterus Hippocrates first proposed in his work The Art of Healingthat hysteria was caused by a wandering uterus Hothersall 16 He believed that the uterus could dislodge itself in the body and wander around the female body attaching itself to other organs Hippocrates explained that the various symptoms of hysteria such as nervousness depression and hysterical fits were caused by the uteruss interactions with the other
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