The Rest Cure: the Yellow Wallpaper


In the yellow wallpaper, the husband of the narrator prescribes to her something which is referred to as yellow cure, even though this rest cure is not explicitly mentioned in the yellow wallpaper. His husband, John, who is a doctor, has diagnosed her with a nervous condition or a mild hysterical tendency. According to the narrator, the diagnosis involves treating which involve avoiding work, social interaction and avoiding strenuous activity or anything that leads to high stimulation (Golden 8). This, therefore, implied that the narrator was too confined in a room and not allowed to do something by her. This treatment, therefore, is referred to as a rest cure.

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This treatment, therefore, leads to isolation and boredom which is brought about by having nothing to do but to stare at the wallpaper at the room. As it may be presumed, this is unhealthy means of an unproductive way of an individual spending their lives despite any condition which he or she may be suffering from. This leads to narrator losing her sanity and starts experiencing hallucination and become a woman who lives behind yellow wallpaper. She, however, does not break a grip of the control and suffering over her. She is excited that she got out at last and she proposes never to go back to that life again. The isolation process that the narrator receives and is one of the factors that contribute to the rest cure and enlightened the mind that made her move away from the oppression of her husband through the diagnosis of the rest cure and the inability to think and do anything of her own.

The history of the rest cure

This cure was invented towards the end of the 19th century by Silas Weir Mitchell, who was an American neurosurgeon and became widely used in both USA and the UK in the early 20th century. This cure was developed during the civil war when the trireme of soldiers who experienced severe nerve damage from bullets and therefore developed wounds (Golden 22). The pain experienced from such injuries drove soldiers to produce violent behavior. The solution was consequently narcotic and rest cure to help those individuals overcome such conditions. Four essential elements characterize this treatment these include face feeding, bed rest, electrical stimulation of muscles and massage.

This cure was later adopted as a cure for hysteria and any other neuron disorder among the civilians. This condition of hysteria is today characterized by some psychological personality disorder that affects both male and female gender. It is marked by a range of physical and mental symptoms. However, during Mitchell’s period, the condition was purely a disease and was known to affect women exclusively
Mitchell, developed several crude misconceptions about the situation and therefore he was known to be very unsympathetic to patients who he diagnosed with the case in the use of rest cure.

Among the mistakes he developed about the disease include the character of the women who were nervous, who were thin and who had strong ambitions and were in the line of competing with men. These women he diagnosed were not allowed to feed or bathe themselves. They were not also to be visited by friends or family, therefore cutting them from social life.

This treatment was, therefore, a way of mistreating women and discouraging them from reaching the level they are capable due to their threat to men. It was a treatment which was consequently related to sexism and misogyny especially in the kinds of literature by the modern writers. The rest cure led to the disastrous result and therefore was not a better way of conducting the women’s treatment. It was a way of mistreating a woman and not allowing them to experience the joy of society. However, the diagnosis was valid in case of conditions such as brain injury and the individual had to take a rest to enhance neither his nor her recovery.

Importance of this rest cure

Rest cure had a lot of significance in the treatment of a psychological disorder in an individual. It is not to be associated with particular sex since it helps to cure both the female and the male genders from brain injuries and other psychological disorders. However, the condition was misused to undermine women in the society and made them remain low through isolating them from the rest of the world. It, therefore, helped women to discover themselves and understand the threat men received from their progress (Golden 13). It also opened a way for resistance from the mistreatment by men who felt threatened by the progress of woman in the society. It led to the development of misconception about the treatment and made a woman suffer in society due to that misinformed n treatment for a condition that was not related to any disease or psychological complications.

Relationship to text

Based on the experience by the narrator, to contextualize this cure to the context of the Yellow Wallpaper story, Gilman viewed her husband as her physician at the beginning and placed all her faith in him. The treatment she experienced was intolerable, and it was accompanied by cruelty. She, therefore, realized that it was a form of manipulation by men who suffocated her during the time of treatment. No other doctors or her husband listened to her during the, and therefore according to her, it was a form of therapy that was ineffective and did not meet the requirement for handling human (Golden 25). The leading cause of suspicion and decision by John to take his wife to such a cruel treatment was because he did not want her to have an opinion on the design of the house and tell John what was best for their home at that particular time.

This use of rest cure, therefore, inspired the narrator to reveal to the world about the kind of treatment and the mistreatment that women undergo once they are diagnosed with that condition. She also highlights the misconceptions that were developed for the cure and its scope of treatment. Through her writings, she helps to change the ideologies and delusions that have been used to mistreat woman who tries to air their opinion to the society. Her book, therefore, caused protest from all another woman as they opposed the method. The narrator s story is one of the inspirations that changed the sexism approaches in social and enabled the removal of gender-based discrimination in modern society. The story helps to give women power in the community. 

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The Rest Cure: The Yellow Wallpaper. (2019, May 13). Retrieved February 1, 2023 , from

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