Short Stories: “The Yellow Wallpaper” and “The Rocking Horse Winner”
Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Biography • Born July 3, 1860 in Hartford, Connecticut • Attended college but dropped out and married Charles Walter Stetson • Developed neurasthenia (emotional disorder characterized by depression) in 1885 after birth of daughter • In 1887, was prescribed “rest cure” by Doctor Silas Weir Mitchell, which prompted her to write “The Yellow Wallpaper” • Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1932 • Committed suicide on August 17, 1935 by overdosing on chloroform
Historical Context: America in the 19th Century • The nation was moving toward a more consumer-oriented society • With the Industrial Revolution and the end of the Civil War, society changed, and money became increasingly important • Gilded Age brought more women into the workforce, few women actually supported themselves • Young women who were working were often expected to turn their wages over to their parents, and wives were expected to turn wages over to their husbands • Women who were not in the workforce were burdened with domestic duties • Neither marriage nor work really loosened the boundaries placed on women; each situation simply offered a different set of rules.
Historical Context: Doctors in the 19th Century • Doctors accepted the idea that a woman's energy was centered around her reproductive organs • When a woman suffered a medical problem, doctors often diagnosed the problem as a problem with channeling energy • Reproductivity was central to a nineteenth century wife's life: doctors often concluded that a "sick" woman was out of sync with her reproductive organs. • Upper class women made ideal patients: their husband's had the money to pay for ongoing treatment and female patients were submissive and obedient
Charlotte Perkins Gilman herself was treated for a similar "nervous condition" as that of the narrator in "The Yellow Wallpaper." • Her physician, Silas Weir Mitchell, was well known in the United States for his "rest cure," also called the "Weir Mitchell Treatment." • Mitchell believed, as a rule, that no harm was done by rest; patients were required to stay in bed for six to eight weeks • Most female patients were forbidden to sit up, sew, write, or read.
David Herbert Lawrence • Born on September 11, 1885, in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, central England • Lawrence's childhood was dominated by poverty and friction between his parents • He was educated at Nottingham High School, to which he had won a scholarship • He worked as a clerk in a surgical appliance factory and then for four years as a pupil-teacher • Lawrence's mother died in 1910; he helped her die by giving her an overdose of sleeping medicine.
D.H. Lawrence Cont’d • The appearance of his first novel, The White Peacock(1911), launched Lawrence into a writing career • D.H. Lawrence died in Vence, France on March 2, 1930
“The Rocking Horse Winner”: Psychoanalysis • Psychoanalytic criticism builds on Freudian theories of psychology • Freud believed that our unconscious was influenced by childhood events • Freud organized these events into developmental stages involving relationships with parents and drives of desire and pleasure where children focus "...on different parts of the body...starting with the mouth...shifting to the oral, anal, and phallic phases..." (Richter 1015).
Freud and the Oedipus Complex • The Oedipus complex involves children's need for their parents and the conflict that arises as children mature and realize they are not the absolute focus of their mother's /father’s attention • Freud maintained that a male child unconsciously desires sexual relations with his mother or a female child unconsciously desires sexual relations with her father