In 1892, author Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote a short story that changed American society. Gilman wrote a literary critique of the social structures of America during the Gilded Age, especially with regard to women. Many authors have approached the same subject; however, what made Gilman's short story so impactful was the plot in which she introduced (and addressed) the societal issue.
Gilman wrote her story, titled "The Yellow Wallpaper", about a woman who feels so trapped in her role as the "perfect American wife" that she goes insane. The plot begins with the housewife stuck in the bedroom of a summer home. She has lately been feeling some mental unrest due to her inability to express herself creatively. As a result, the woman's husband prescribes to her the "resting treatment": during a specified period of time, the woman is not to express her creativity in any form at all, and is encouraged not to use her imagination for any reason. The woman becomes so restless in her room that she allows her imagination to take over her conscious mind, and she begins to hallucinate that there is a woman trapped behind the walls of her bedroom, waiting to get out. The woman actually tears the wallpaper off the walls of her room in an attempt to free this woman, and as a result, she becomes so enraptured with her story that she ends up trapping herself in her own insanity.
This story has a couple interesting psychological levels. One of these is the plot itself, which says a lot about the effect of repression on individuals, and the strength of our own imaginative and creative powers. Furthermore, it is widely known that the author was prescribed this "resting treatment" by her own psychologist as a way to combat her creative frustration (This treatment was abandoned shortly after Gilman's short story was published). Perhaps, this short story is a comment on her own psychological experience in addition to women's position in society.
After reading this short story myself, I found it really interesting to consider that there have been many stages to psychological treatment throughout history - many treatments that have been strengthened, and many others that have been abandoned over time. Furthermore, Gilman's comment on women and their role in society during the 1890s has a psychological component to it as well. Her story appealed to the emotions of countless individuals at the time, and continues to do so today, helping to change the way we treat each other and how we value each other.
This certainly was no ordinary short story. Through psychology and psychological analysis, Gilman changed American society (arguably, for the better) during the Gilded Age, and helped to bring about a new era of equality and higher moral standards.
Here's a link to a website you may find useful in analyzing the short story, especially if you have read it: