For the women in the twentieth century today, who have more freedom than before and have not experienced the depressive life that Gilman lived from 1860 to 1935, it is difficult to understand Gilman’s situation and understand the significance of "The Yellow Wallpaper". Gilman’s original purpose of writing the story was to gain personal satisfaction if Dr. S. Weir Mitchell might change his treatment after reading the story. However, as Ann L. Jane suggests, "The Yellow Wallpaper" is "the best crafted of her fiction: a genuine literary piece...the most directly, obviously, self-consciously autobiographical of all her stories" (Introduction xvi). And more importantly, Gilman says in her article in The Forerunner, "It was not intended to drive people crazy, but to save people from being driven crazy, and it worked" (20). Therefore, "The Yellow Wallpaper" is a revelation of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s own emotions.

When the story first came out in 1892 the critics considered "The Yellow Wallpaper" as a portrayal of female insanity rather than a story that reveals an aspect of society. In The Transcript, a physician from Boston wrote, "Such a story ought not to be written...it was enough to drive anyone mad to read it" (Gilman 19). This statement implies that any woman that would write something to show opposition to the dominant social values must have been insane. In Gilman’s time setting "The ideal woman was not only assigned a social role that locked her into her home, but she was also expected to like it, to be cheerful and gay, smiling and good humored" (Lane, To Herland 109). Those women who rejected this role and pursued intellectual enlightenment and freedom would be scoffed, alienated, and even punished. This is exactly what Gilman experienced when she tried to express her desire for independence. Gilman expressed her emotional and psychological feelings of rejection from society for thinking freely in "The Yellow Wallpaper", which is a reaction to the fact that it was against the grain of society for women to pursue intellectual freedom or a career in the late 1800’s. Her taking Dr. S. Weir Mitchell’s "rest cure" was the result of the pressures of these prevalent social values.

Charlotte Gilman was born on July 3, 1860, in Hartford, Connecticut in a family boasting a list of revolutionary thinkers, writers. And intermarriages among them were, as Carol Berkin put it, "in discrete confirmation of their pride in association" (18). One fact that catches our attention is that, either from the inbreeding, or from the high intellectual capacity of the family, there was a long sting of disorders ranging from "manic-depressive illness" to nervous breakdowns including suicide and short term hospitalizations (Lane, To Herland 110). Harriet Beecher Stowe, Gilman’s aunt, also complained about this illness. When writing to a friend, Beecher said, "My mind is exhausted and seems to be sinking into deadness" (Lane, TO Herland 111). She felt this way for years and did not recover from so many breakdowns until finding "real release in her writing" of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Lane, To Herland 111). And Catherine Beecher, another famous writer and lecturer at that time, was also sent to the same sanitarium for nervous disorders. As Gilman came from a family of such well known feminists and revolutionaries, it is without a doubt that she grew up with the idea that she had the right to be treated as anyone, whether man or woman.

Not only did this strong background affect her viewpoint about things, it also affected her relations with her husband and what role she would play in that relationship. From the beginning of her marriage, she struggled with the idea of conforming to the domestic model for women. Upon repeated proposals from Stetson, her husband, Gilman tried to "lay bare her torments and reservations" about getting married (Lane, To Herland 85). She claimed that "her thoughts, her acts, her whole life would be centered on husband and children. To do the work she needed to do, she must be free" (Lane, To Herland 85). Gilman was so scared of this idea because she loved her work and she loved freedom, though she also loved her husband very much. "After a long period of uncertainty and vacillation" she married Charles Stetson at 24 (Lane, Introduction x). Less than a