The Post-Partum Depression Theory of “The Yellow Wall-Paper” is tiresome and wrong-headed. The popularity of this stupid theory showcases how deeply reluctant people are to engage a feminist story on its own (pretty unsubtle) terms.
The protagonist has, it is true, recently given birth. But she struggles with no feelings of conflict regarding that fact, or the baby. Frankly, she doesn’t seem to give much of a damn about the baby one way or another. She mentions that it’s cute and she would spend more time with it except that she gets “nervous.” Her nervousness, however, is linked in the story, NOT to her child, but directly and repeatedly to a conflict over writing - she wants to write, her husband doesn’t want her to. She is not conflicted about being a mother; she is largely uninterested, and also un-allowed — as long as her interest in writing continues, she is cut off by her husband from the privileges of immersion in the domestic sphere and is instead “treated” by a forced reversion to childhood and dependence (symbolized by the nursery), the idea being that if she is “cured” by becoming more child-like, then she will be fit for, and allowed to join, the domestic sphere as a wife and mother.
In every way, this is a feminist short story. The post-partum depression theory has been seized on, consciously or not, by people who just can’t wrap their heads around the twin ideas that: 1-motherhood is not necessarily a profoundly emotional experience, and is not even necessarily part of the adult experience, and 2-chicks do things for reasons OTHER than their wacky biology.
Our editor teaches college and has tried to be tolerant of this viewpoint. No longer – it is not an innocent viewpoint, but one that is mendacious, sexist, and above all shockingly inattentive to the actual story.