Diagnosing Bipolar Disorder in “the Yellow Wallpaper”: a Textual Analysis

In: English and Literature

Submitted By eblair
Words 1927
Pages 8
Erica M. Blair

Erin Adair-Hodges

English 1102-52

August 12, 2010

Diagnosing Bipolar Disorder in “The Yellow Wallpaper”: A Textual Analysis

Clinical psychology was a field of major interest in the 19th century, but its early theories and diagnoses are now obsolete. Since its inception, mental illness has been a concept used to disenfranchise and stigmatize eccentric individuals. However, its use against women by men in the 19th century was profoundly great. Some mental disorders had no root in science or observation but were social constructs used to control and manipulate women. A modern, scientific analysis of Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” reveals that it’s heroine doesn’t suffer from the socially constructed “nervous depression”, but from a real clinical diagnosis: Bipolar I Disorder. Through the course of this story, Jane displays all the necessary criteria to receive a diagnosis of Bipolar I Disorder. Jane describes herself as being tired and depressed. She has irregular sleeping, eating and activity patterns. Through her writing, she conveys anxiety, paranoia, and delusions. The most damaging part of her disorder is the hallucinations she experiences as witnessed by her descriptions and personification of the wallpaper in the nursery. The text reveals through her own words, as well as her writing style, that she transitions from the depressive phase of Bipolar I Disorder to full-blown mania with psychosis. From the beginning of the story, Jane presents with depression. She displays guilt immediately, saying her condition “…always makes me feel bad.” Her guilt is also shown while discussing John’s care of her, stating, “…I feel so basely ungrateful not to value it more.” She also makes several references to herself as a “comparative burden.” Her guilt is reflective of her depressive state, which makes her more contrite and obedient to her…...

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