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April 19, 2007

Term Project Presentation

Term Project -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

A project by Denamarie Ercolani and Lorin Schumacher.


Most often, critics take a feminist approach to “The Yellow Wallpaper.” While this is a legitimate angle to take in regards to this story as there are many things to explore through this lens, we feel that looking at the story this way causes readers to miss the comment Gilman makes in regards to doctor/patient relationships.
Since there is already so much criticism done on the “The Yellow Wallpaper” with a feminist approach it was hard for us to see what else there might be to focus on besides how oppressed the woman is by her husband. But, at the beginning of the semester when we read Gilman’s “Why I Wrote the Yellow Wallpaper” way back when we were studying authorial intent it made us think about Gilman’s resentment towards her bed rest treatment, but it wasn’t until we watched the film Garden State that we both realized the strong argument Gilman presents against unethical doctor/patient relationships such as the one presented between the woman and her husband in “The Yellow Wallpaper.”
In Garden State, the main character, Andrew, is on all sorts of medications and has been since he was a kid because his father prescribed them to him. His father prescribed them to him due to an incident Andrew was involved in that caused his mother to become paralyzed and he assumed that his son was going to have all sorts of psychological problems as a result. After all these years of his father trying to protect him from having any sort of problems through these medications, Andrew really does develop issues that he probably wouldn’t have otherwise had.
In a similar way, John assumes that his wife in “The Yellow Wallpaper” has problems, or is going to have problems (perhaps as a result of the baby she’s just had?...although there is limited information given to the reader in regards to this) and he either amplifies or perhaps even causes them by putting her on bed rest, which seems to be more a result of him trying to protect her rather than cure her. (Because, as she says, he doesn’t really believe that she has a problem. Why treat someone who doesn’t have a problem? Because he thinks he is taking some sort of preventative measures.)
This is difficult for readers to notice in the story than it is in the film because the relationship is a husband/wife or male/female rather than the father/son or male/male relationship that is in Garden State.
Also, if Gilman was being truthful in her essay “Why I Wrote the Yellow Wallpaper” and her goal of writing the story is really the result of her distrusting doctors, it makes sense that John would be portrayed negatively and made to look like the “bad guy” in the story. But, there is a big difference in the meaning of the story if you look at John as “the bad doctor” instead of as “the bad husband.”
So, ultimately, what we’ve discovered through our investigation of “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Garden State is that the woman’s insanity is the result of her treatment, prescribed by her doctor, not the result of her husband’s oppression.
For our project, we thought it would be an interesting twist in the story “The Yellow Wallpaper” if we used an intertextual approach along with Garden State. We then decided on creating two new scenes to be incorporated into Gillman’s story which was similar to Garden State. These scenes contain lines from both stories and also emphasis the doctor/patient relationships in both plots. For “The Yellow Wallpaper” these two scenes would give the story an alternate ending that would conclude in a positive note and ultimately show the overall point in the story, doctor/patient relationships.

Posted by Denamarie at April 19, 2007 1:35 PM

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