THE YELLOW WALLPAPER

PLOT The narrator begins her journal by marvelling at the the grandeur of the house and grounds her husband has taken for their summer vacation. She describes it in romantic terms as an aristocratic estate or even a haunted house and wonder how they were able to afford it, and why the house had been empty for so long. Her feeling that there is "something queer" about the situation leads her into a discussion of her illness- she is suffering from "nervous depression"- and of her marriage. She complains that her husband, John, who is also her doctor, belittles both her illness and her thoughts and concerns in general. She contrasts his practical, rationalistic manner with her own imaginative, sensitive ways. Her treatment requires that she do almost nothing active, and she is especially forbidden from working and writing. She feels that activity, freedom, and interesting work would help her condition and reveals that she has begun her secret journal in order to "relieve her mind." In an attempt to do so, the narrator begins describing the house. Her description is mostly positive, but disturbing elements such as "rings and things" in the bedroom walls, and the bars on the windows, keep showing up (could have been an asylum?). She is particularly disturbed by the yellow wallpaper in the bedroom, with its strange, formless pattern, and describes it as "revolting." Soon, however her thoughts are interrupted by John's approach, and she is forced to stop writing. As the first few weeks of the summer pass, the narrator becomes good at hiding her journal, and thus hiding her true thoughts from John. She continues to long for more stimulating company and activity, and she complains again about John's patronising controlling ways- although she immediately returns to the wallpaper, which begins to seem not only ugly, but oddly menacing. She mentions that John is worried about her becoming fixated on it, and that he has even refused to repaper the room so as not to give

she points out that the paper is torn off the wall in spots. The narrator is alone most of the time and says that she has become almost fond of the wallpaper and that attempting to figure out its pattern has become her primary entertainment. the sub-pattern of the wallpaper becomes clearer. the narrator reports that her family has just visited. hiding her interest in the paper and making sure no one else examines it so that she can "find it out" on her own. As the Fourth of July passes. she startles Jennie. which she says must have been a nursery for young children. which looks like the bars of a cage. Just as she begins to see a strange sub-pattern behind the main design of the wallpaper. At one point. when she was able to work herself into a terror by imagining things in the dark. effectively silencing her. Each time he does so. her disgusted fascination with the paper grows. Mistaking the narrator's fixation for tranquility. the real-life physician under whose care Gilman had a nervous breakdown. who is acting as a housekeeper and nurse for the narrator. But she sleeps less and less and is convinced that she can smell the paper all over the .in to her neurotic worries. She also thinks back to her childhood. this time by John's sitter. As she describes the bedroom. It begins to resemble a woman "stooping down and creeping" behind the main pattern. John thinks she is improving. She becomes possessive and secretive. Soon the wallpaper dominates the narrator's imagination. Jennie. there are scratches and gouges in the floor. She mentions that she enjoys picturing people on the walkways around the house and that John always discourages such fantasies. leaving her more tired than ever. has been aroused. her writing is interrupted again. John threatens to send her to Weir Mitchell. John makes light of her concerns. The narrator's imagination. who had been touching the wallpaper and who mentions that she had found yellow stains on their clothes. As her obsession grows. Whenever the narrator tries to discuss leaving the house. however. and the furniture is heavy and fixed in place.

but due to her illness has been forced to stop. biting and tearing at the paper in order to free the trapped woman. running all around the room. even outside. where her husband treats her unequally and childishly." This line suggests the narrator was once a writer. The narrator mentions that she. too. The sub-pattern now clearly resembles a woman who is trying to get out from behind the main pattern.house. whom she sees struggling from inside the pattern. When John breaks into the locked room and sees the full horror of the situation. the narrator is seen as a hysteric with an illness of some sort. She suspects that John and Jennie are aware of her obsession. The next day she manages to be alone and goes into something of a frenzy. he does not believe I am sick!" This indicated that John is sceptical . peeling much of it off during the night. when the woman is able to escape briefly. but it does exhaust me a good deal. the narrator is hopelessly insane. he faints in the doorway. and she resolves to destroy the paper once and for all. The narrator sees her shaking the bars at night and creeping around during the day. • John's attitude is careless towards his wide and in more ways than one. smudging the wallpaper as she goes. The narrator and her husband are residing in a rental mansion as their home is being renovated. By the end. She discovers a strange smudge mark on the paper. "You see. so that the narrator has "to creep over him every time!" ANALYSIS • At the beginning of the story. as if it had been rubbed by someone crawling against the wall. She creeps endlessly around the room.that she herself is the trapped woman. mistreating. and this is where the story takes place. creeps around at times. She tires easily and is made to stay home to rest. "I did write for a while. convinced that there are many creeping woman around and that she herself has come out of the wallpaper.

"What is it little girl? You little goose. her husband disagrees. "I mean to be such a help to John. and he scoffs openly at any talk of things not to be felt. "John is practical in the extreme. The woman in the story is not entirely "reliable" as the ready can only see from her point of view. John is not trying to drive to drive the narrator to insanity on purpose. a comparative burden already!" She feels guilts at not fulfilling her duties as a housewife of that time." As he does not physically see evidence of a mental breakdown. "John . John is a product of that time period. did not believe in mental illnesses." When the narrator requests to change the awful wallpaper. The narrator's feelings towards her husband are ones of frustration and guilt. an intense horror of superstition. so her judgements and descriptions may not always be sensible. seen and put down in figures. "You know the place is doing you good." He patronises his wife by treating her as a child. where the narrator and John stay. is proved significant." She is frustrated with him for denying her condition and not treating her to health again. and is doing everything the narrator should have been doing. he assumes his wife is just acting up. Thus. He has no patience with faith. thinking she will feel the need to change the whole house afterwards. Jennie.• • • • about the narrator's condition and does not treat her with the medication she truly needs. This is dangerous as he unknowingly contributes to the narrator's destruction. The narrator is known to be mentally ill. Conflict arises between the narrator and her husband in cases where he prevents her from fulfilling her smallest wishes. the nursery. I don't care to renovate the house just for a three months' rental. and really dear. and here I am. such a real rest and comfort. He is in a state of denial and disbelief at her illness. seems to be content with life of that age. This feeling is not helped by the fact that John's sister. "John does not know how much I really suffer. where doctors such as he.

At times. As if I couldn't see through him!" The narrator develops paranoia.Sarcasm. She is under the oppression brought down to her by her husband. losing all track on who was who. She became the woman she was hallucinating. too. She believes her husband. "And it is like a woman stooping down and creeping about behind the pattern. as well as his sister. Both are not free and act as though they wish not to be seen. reflecting the narrator's situation. however. of course. The women are afraid and hide from society. The creeping figure in the wallpaper represents the women of that time. it is a monster with bulbous eyes watching." Towards the end of the story. but in the world of our narrator. which she desires to do herself. but one expects that in marriage. her price was her sanity and her reason. It tells the age-old tale of oppression and inequality in marriages. it is shifting every time. the narrator included. and pretended to be very loving and kind. One does not expect such things . The narrator is victorious in escaping the confinement her husband had made for her. QUOTES ⁃ John laughs at me. but similar as both are trapped by a representation of domestic life. It never changes in reality. Society of that time also plays its role as women were considered "inferior" and did not have the freedom then they have today. Other times it is a cage where figures are trapped behind the bars.• • • • asked me all sorts of questions. The ending in the story is both a victory and a defeat. not wanting to be noticed or in the limelight.the wallpaper. The reader cannot trust the narrator to interpret situations as they really are. The wallpaper plays many roles in the story. The principal social institution against which the narrator struggles is marriage and being a woman. the wallpaper plays a mirror. The narrator's situation is different to that of the other woman as she was not real. are out to solve the mystery of the wallpaper. However.

insecure Ravages.. an enthusiastic housekeeper.violent descriptions from a struggling mind Such a dear girl as she is.She feels guilt in not fulfilling her duties as a traditional wife and mother. John does not listen to even the simplest of needs. My brother is also a physician.alliteration to show the security and kindness I could always hop into that chair and be safe.Sarcasm.The narrator frequently brings up the wallpaper. I wish I could get well faster. through the wars.give way to such fancies. I am glad my case is not serious. I used to lie awake as a child and get more entertainment…. gouged. I wanted one downstairs…….Exactly what the narrator does NOT want to be From these windows…. The narrator is realising how serious her case really is.Patronising. I meant to be such a help to John…..fear of being discovered She is a perfect. as contrasted to the narrator's..She wants to be a part of it all . and hopes for no better profession.lovely country…..Feels guilty for not appreciating her I must not let her find me writing. I always fancy I see people……So I try. and he says the same thing.But John would not hear of it. splintered..The narrator has a vivid imagination Big old bureau.Again.John stops her from imagining even harmless fantasies. At first he meant to repaper the room…. showcasing her obsession with it. There is a recurrent spot….⁃ ⁃ ⁃ ⁃ ⁃ ⁃ ⁃ ⁃ ⁃ ⁃ ⁃ ⁃ ⁃ ⁃ ⁃ ⁃ in a healthy marriage. John is practical in the extreme……down in figuresDescription of John.a comparative burden already. John displays ignorance of his wife's needs. scratched..Shows what all doctors thought in that time period. and also of high standing.

and is acting superior to her. An example of what a parent might say to a child.instead of yellow. full of great……. There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me.Again.John is no longer recognisable.The progression of the story where she becomes a part of the wallpaper John says if I don't pick up faster he shall send me to Weir Mitchell in the fall.Pure insanity.This wallpaper has a kind of sub-pattern….The narrator's obsession and paranoia begins to show evidently. He said I was his darling. he increases her guilt. too.The narrator's obsession is growing. He has now become an inconvenience. I can see a strange... I caught Jennie with her hand on it once/ As if I couldn't…. I've caught him several times looking at the paper! And Jennie too.Her obsession talking.⁃ ⁃ ⁃ ⁃ ⁃ ⁃ ⁃ ⁃ ⁃ ⁃ ⁃ ⁃ A lovely country.to reach the smell/ I got so angry I bit off a little piece at one corner/ For outside you have to creep……. for my sake and for our child's sake. I am a doctor.John is patronising her again. his comfort and all he had. OTHER NOTES Dramatic Irony: occurs when there is a contrast between the reader's knowledge and the knowledge of the . you shan't have any food" I follow that pattern by the hour. I thought of burning the house. What is it little girl?. as well as for your own. dear. Now why should that man have fainted? I had to creep over him every time!. she is far too gone. and I know/ Can you not trust me as a physician when I tell you so?.him. and keep wellThis increases the narrator's guilt for being a burden. provoking formless sort of figure.The wallpaper is brought up again. He manipulates her. I beg of you. and I must take care of myself for his sake. "If you don't clean your room. or ever will.Patronising.Patronising.

as the narrator sinks further into her fantasy and the reader remains able to see her actions from the "outside. Gilman uses this technique to show the narrator's descent into madness both subjectively and objectivelythat is. For example. Situational Irony: refers to moments when a character's actions have the opposite of their intended effect. when the narrator first describes the bedroom she attributes the room's bizarre features. . worsening the depression he was trying to cure and actually driving his wife insane. the reader sees that there is an equally plausible explanation for these details. Similarly there is a deep irony in the way the narrator's fate develops. especially in those moments when the narrative is interrupted by the approach of John or Jennie. The effect intensifies towards the end of the story." By the time the narrator fully identifies the trapped woman she sees in the wallpaper. For example. Even this early in the story. The story is an epistolary. the bars on the windows. in which the narrator writes to herself. The journal used gives the story an intense intimacy and immediacy. the reader can appreciate the narrator's experience from her point of view as well as John's shock at what he sees when he breaks down the door to the bedroom. and the torn wallpaper.to the fact that it must have once been a nursery.the "rings and things" in the walls. She gains a kind of power and insight only by losing what we would call her self-control and reason. Another example is when the narrator assumes that Jennie shares her interest in the wallpaper. while it is clear that Jennie is only now noticing the source of the yellow stains on their clothing.character's in the work. from both the inside and the outside. John's course of treatment backfires. the room had been used to house an insane person. the nailed-down furniture.

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