Analysis of 'The Yellow Wallpaper' by C. Perkins Gilman

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Like Kate Chopin's " The Story of an Hour ," Charlotte Perkins Gilman's " The Yellow Wallpaper " is a mainstay of feminist literary study. First published in 1892, the story takes the form of secret journal entries written by a woman who is supposed to be recovering from what her husband, a physician, calls a nervous condition.

This haunting psychological horror story chronicles the narrator's descent into madness, or perhaps into the paranormal, or perhaps—depending on your interpretation—into freedom. The result is a story as chilling as anything by Edgar Allan Poe or Stephen King .

Recovery Through Infantilization

The protagonist's husband, John, does not take her illness seriously. Nor does he take her seriously. He prescribes, among other things, a "rest cure," in which she is confined to their summer home, mostly to her bedroom.

The woman is discouraged from doing anything intellectual, even though she believes some "excitement and change" would do her good. She is allowed very little company—certainly not from the "stimulating" people she most wishes to see. Even her writing must happen in secret.

In short, John treats her like a child. He calls her diminutive names like "blessed little goose" and "little girl." He makes all decisions for her and isolates her from the things she cares about.

Even her bedroom is not the one she wanted; instead, it's a room that appears to have once been a nursery, emphasizing her return to infancy. Its "windows are barred for little children," showing again that she is being treated as a child—as well as a prisoner.

John's actions are couched in concern for the woman, a position that she initially seems to believe herself. "He is very careful and loving," she writes in her journal, "and hardly lets me stir without special direction." Her words also sound as if she is merely parroting what she's been told, though phrases like "hardly lets me stir" seem to harbor a veiled complaint.

Fact Versus Fancy

John dismisses anything that hints of emotion or irrationality—what he calls "fancy." For instance, when the narrator says that the wallpaper in her bedroom disturbs her, he informs her that she is letting the wallpaper "get the better of her" and refuses to remove it.

John doesn't simply dismiss things he finds fanciful though; he also uses the charge of "fancy" to dismiss anything he doesn't like. In other words, if he doesn't want to accept something, he simply declares that it is irrational.

When the narrator tries to have a "reasonable talk" with him about her situation, she is so distraught that she is reduced to tears. Instead of interpreting her tears as evidence of her suffering, he takes them as evidence that she is irrational and can't be trusted to make decisions for herself.

As part of his infantilization of her, he speaks to her as if she is a whimsical child, imagining her own illness. "Bless her little heart!" he says. "She shall be as sick as she pleases!" He does not want to acknowledge that her problems are real, so he silences her.

The only way the narrator could appear rational to John would be to become satisfied with her situation, which means there is no way for her to express concerns or ask for changes.

In her journal, the narrator writes:

"John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no reason to suffer, and that satisfies him."

John can't imagine anything outside his own judgment. So when he determines that the narrator's life is satisfactory, he imagines that the fault lies with her perception. It never occurs to him that her situation might really need improvement.

The Wallpaper

The nursery walls are covered in putrid yellow wallpaper with a confused, eerie pattern. The narrator is horrified by it.

She studies the incomprehensible pattern in the wallpaper, determined to make sense of it. But rather than making sense of it, she begins to identify a second pattern—that of a woman creeping furtively behind the first pattern, which acts as a prison for her.

The first pattern of the wallpaper can be seen as the societal expectations that hold women, like the narrator, captive. Her recovery will be measured by how cheerfully she resumes her domestic duties as wife and mother, and her desire to do anything else—like write—is something that would interfere with that recovery.

Though the narrator studies and studies the pattern in the wallpaper, it never makes any sense to her. Similarly, no matter how hard she tries to recover, the terms of her recovery—embracing her domestic role—never make sense to her, either.

The creeping woman can represent both victimization by the societal norms and resistance to them.

This creeping woman also gives a clue about why the first pattern is so troubling and ugly. It seems to be peppered with distorted heads with bulging eyes—the heads of other creeping women who were strangled by the pattern when they tried to escape it. That is, women who couldn't survive when they tried to resist cultural norms. Gilman writes that "nobody could climb through that pattern—it strangles so."

Becoming a Creeping Woman

Eventually, the narrator becomes a creeping woman herself. The first indication is when she says, rather startlingly, "I always lock the door when I creep by daylight." Later, the narrator and the creeping woman work together to pull off the wallpaper.

The narrator also writes, "[T]here are so many of those creeping women, and they creep so fast," implying that the narrator is only one of many.

That her shoulder "just fits" into the groove on the wall is sometimes interpreted to mean that she has been the one ripping the paper and creeping around the room all along. But it could also be interpreted as an assertion that her situation is no different from that of many other women. In this interpretation, "The Yellow Wallpaper" becomes not just a story about one woman's madness, but a maddening system.

At one point, the narrator observes the creeping women from her window and asks, "I wonder if they all come out of that wallpaper as I did?"

Her coming out of the wallpaper—her freedom—coincides with a descent into mad behavior: ripping off the paper, locking herself in her room, even biting the immovable bed. That is, her freedom comes when she finally reveals her beliefs and behavior to those around her and stops hiding.

The final scene—in which John faints and the narrator continues to creep around the room, stepping over him every time—is disturbing but also triumphant. Now John is the one who is weak and sickly, and the narrator is the one who finally gets to determine the rules of her own existence. She is finally convinced that he only "pretended to be loving and kind." After being consistently infantilized by his comments, she turns the tables on him by addressing him condescendingly, if only in her mind, as "young man."

John refused to remove the wallpaper, and in the end, the narrator used it as her escape. 

the yellow wallpaper interpretation essay

the yellow wallpaper interpretation essay

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Literary Analysis of “The Yellow Wallpaper”, Essay Example

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Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s, “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a seemingly personal account of female oppression during the 19 th century. At that time in history women were commonly seen as possessions or property, rather than an equal partner to their spouse. The story details the narrator’s journey as she explains many details about the people and places that surround her, which are very symbolic for a number of themes. Not only are relationships and society restrictive, but she also finds that her house and bedroom are particularly repressive to her physical being as well as her emotional growth. This paper will explore the various symbolic meanings found in Gilman’s story and also relate that to the oppressive nature of women during that time in history. The narrator identifies her feelings of oppression and imprisonment in her marriage just as the “woman behind the wallpaper” does; both women are looking for a way out, but unable to escape the physical restraints placed on them.

A Summer Retreat For Nervous Depression

The story begins with the account of both the house and grounds that the narrator and her husband will be staying at for a summer retreat. She is very expressive with her descriptions, but she spends much of her time explaining how she believes that there is something off or “queer” about the house and grounds. Once inside the house she begins to imagine and even describes the patterns in the wallpaper and walls of the home. The negative energy that she uses to explain could be from her being diagnosed with “nervous depression” by her husband, who is also a doctor. She states that she is prescribed “phosphates and tonics….and absolutely forbidden to work until I am well again (Gilman 1). In order to better understand the narrator and her feelings, one must understand the viewpoint and beliefs about women during this time. At this point in history, women that suffered from mood swings or other emotions were often to be said to be crazy or have depression that should be treated with rest and restricted activity. This is exactly what the narrator is supposed to do, rest, stay in her bedroom and is explicitly forbidden to write or express her thoughts. Her creative expression kept in her journal is considered badly John and she is forced to hide her journal from him as well as and others that enter the home.

One of the most symbolic meanings of the story is the restriction of the narrator’s ability to write in her journal or express her thoughts. This suggests that her thoughts and feelings are not important to her husband, John or anyone for that matter. She relates to the reader that John suggests that her writing is simply neurotic worry and that it is not good for her treatment. Her treatment of course is rest and staying out of the way of her husband for the most part, which causes her to see herself as a burden (Gilman 3). At this time in history mental illness was poorly understood and those afflicted were often locked away or isolated from others. It was believed, just like the narrator states that the afflicted individual must take control of their emotions and make the necessary changes. Women were often treated like children in the respect that they needed to be guided and were unable to make decisions for themselves. To further this train of thought, John commonly referred to his wife in the story as a “blessed little goose” and even a little girl (Gilman 7). While it seems that John is giving his wife pet names, these are more symbolic of a person that is unable to care for themselves or is childlike, which was consistent with the beliefs of the time.

Not only was he attempting to control his wife through their marriage, but he was also a doctor that could prescribe “treatment” for her, which further restricted her.

Bars on the Windows

The narrator was locked away on the second floor and her husband and sister in law, Jennie and a nanny were her caregivers. Her food is brought to her and the nanny tends to her child, while Jennie is said to be the perfect housekeeper. There is no reason for her to leave her room, as she is to rest and not engage in any work. The room that she is placed in is described as being lit by the sun and spacious, but she details that it may have been where children stayed.  The manner by which she describes leads the reader to believe that it is a nursery, as the windows are barred and there are rings and things in the wall (Gilman 2). She explains that there are bars on the windows, which likely were placed there because of the children that the room was used for. The symbolic bars on the window noted by the narrator represent the feeling of being held against her will with no escape. On one side she was faced with a repressive husband that refuses to hear her concerns and the only other way out was secured with bars. She sees her marriage and surroundings as a prison, bars on the windows and being confined to a room where her actions are dictated by others. She is not free to move about or engage in any activity under the pretext that it would worsen her condition. Ironically, depression is said to improve with a persons increased activity level, which is another form of symbolic oppression in the story and in society in general during that time period.

Women’s Oppression

At one point in the story she states that she likes to fantasize about people walking on the walkway or grounds of the estate, however is discouraged by her husband. This represents the disregard for her imagination or creative thought process. This can also be seen in his disregard for her writing as she states, “he hates to have me write a word” (Gilman 2).  A woman’s ability or right to work is an expression of herself and this story represents the way that it was stunted. Instead the only job that a woman was capable of was taking care of her family, and in this story that had even been taken from the narrator. It was the woman’s job to engage in domestic care of both the children and spouse, not work outside the home or have income of her own. Society placed many restrictive beliefs on females, giving them little freedom or rights as a citizen. During this time in history, women that divorced their husbands or did not obey them were considered second class citizens. In some cases they were not allowed to engage in society as they had broken the sacred code of marriage. In a sense the narrators physical being is trapped in her room, however her emotional being is trapped through the inability to write, work, care for her children or even explain her medical condition.

The Patterned Wallpaper

The narrator describes the wallpaper as yellow with a revolting and hideous pattern (Gilman 2). She sees bulbous images and what she describes as broken necks in the papers design. She asks her husband to change rooms; however he says that it is the best room for her recovery. Drawing from the fact that it was a child’s nursery one could make the comparison again that she is being treated like a child. Some of the wallpaper according to the narrator is already been picked or torn. Through the story, she begins to see figures behind the wallpaper that she believes is a woman who is trapped. This shadow or trapped woman is described as, “dim shapes that get clearer every day” (Gilman 10).

In the beginning, the narrator, was only able to see odd patterns, however not the females that she believes to be trapped. She says that the woman stays behind the bars as they bind her. The woman is silent or still during the day, however when night comes the woman rattles the bars that entrap her inside the wall or behind the wallpaper itself. Her beliefs about this woman can be seen as her own mental illness or struggle with being oppressed by her husband and society as well. She claims that this woman creeps and greatly desires to be set free from the constraints of the wallpaper.

Just as the narrator is hiding her journal and inner thoughts from her husband, the woman behind the wallpaper hides in the sunlight, but moves under the moonlight. This signifies the hiding of the female presence, but only expressing herself when no one is looking. Throughout the story, the narrator becomes more obsessed with the wallpaper, the figures and movement of the pattern. This is her only source of entertainment and she begins to identify with the woman that is trapped. As the story moves along and she becomes even more depressed, she begins to make plans to free the woman. Her goal is to do so within two days, which is their scheduled departure date from the house. She begins picking and tearing at the wallpaper to not only free the woman she sees, but also as a source of taking her own control (Gilman 11). She is defying her husband, as he certainly would not approve of her actions or thoughts. As she tears the wallpaper she hears shrieks, but is intent on allowing the woman to go free. During the time that she is peeling the paper, she contemplates jumping out the window, but is unable to because there are bars on the windows. She also notes that she is afraid of all the other women creeping outside. Some may feel that the narrator has been driven mad by the wallpaper at this point, however it seems that the meaning is that of her final decision not to care what her husband thinks. She is following what she feels and standing up for her own freedom by releasing the woman behind the wallpaper. When her husband learns of her actions, he breaks his way into the room and then faints at the sight of what she has done. He, of course believes that she has gone completely mad and faints. The story ends with the narrator creeping around the perimeter of the room, even stepping over his body in the process (Gilman 12). Again her stepping over his body is symbolic that she is no longer under his control, even though she has likely suffered a nervous breakdown and has lost her mind.

In conclusion, Gilman’s story is that of a personal account from a female’s perspective. The narrator comes to identify with the women in the wallpaper that she imagines. Of course these delusions are due to her illness, which is most likely related to depression and post-partum, as there is a baby referenced in the story. Medical conditions were not understood and the general consensus of the time was to use natural remedies coupled with rest. Those that suffered from depression or other mental disorders would likely be separated from the general community as they simply didn’t know what else to do with them. Along with the narrator suffering from depression, she was also a victim of historical oppression. During this time, women were seen as less than equal and not allowed to express opinions or take an active role in decision making. Their place was in a domestic role and nothing more. While some might say that the wallpaper drove the narrator crazy, others might see it as an escape from an oppressive reality in the only manner that she could control; her own thoughts and bizarre actions!

Works Cited

Gilman, Charlotte. “The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman; The Yellow Wallpaper Page 1.” Page By Page Books. Read Classic Books Online, Free. . N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2011. <http://www.pagebypagebooks

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Home — Essay Samples — Literature — Books — The Yellow Wallpaper

the yellow wallpaper interpretation essay

Essays on The Yellow Wallpaper

"the yellow wallpaper" by charlotte perkins gilman: the use of symbolism, foreshadowing and irony to show female oppression.

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Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "Yellow Wallpaper": Mental Illness

Critical analysis of "the yellow wallpaper" written by charlotte perkins gilman, the importance of the point of view in the yellow wallpaper, the opression of women in a jury of her peer and the yellow wallpaper, female insanity in the yellow wallpaper, the violence of achieving of the victorian ideal of femininity in the yellow wallpaper, literary analysis of the yellow wallpaper by charlotte perkins gillman, analysis of the main themes in "the yellow wallpaper" by charlotte perkins gilman, jane's postpartum depression in the yellow wallpaper by charlotte perkins gilman, analysis of feminism in 'the yellow wallpaper' by charlotte perkins gilman, conflict in the yellow wallpaper, the themes of feminism in the yellow wallpaper, analysis of narrator in the yellow wallpaper, analysis of symbolism in the yellow wallpaper by charlotte gilman, male domination and female oppression in the yellow wallpaper, analysis of charlotte perkins gilman’s point of view on women oppression in the yellow wallpaper, feminism and freedom in the yellow wallpaper and the story of an hour, analytical on the symbolism in the "yellow wallpaper", depression as one of the main themes in the yellow wallpaper by charlotte perkins gilman, the historical context of the yellow wallpaper by charlotte gilman, marxist theory of alienation in gilman's 'the yellow wallpaper', perception versus reality in the yellow wallpaper, the use of symbols to describe the persecution of women in the yellow wallpaper, mood comparison in "the tell-tale heart" and "the yellow wallpaper", the effects of women's role and mental illnesses in "the yellow wallpaper", postpartum depression in the yellow wallpaper by charlotte perkins gilman, a theme of depression in the yellow wallpaper by charlotte perkins gilman, feminism in the yellow wallpaper: road to women’s freedom in the 19th century, depiction of women treatment in society in the yellow wallpaper, feeling stressed about your essay.

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1892, Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Short story; Psychological fiction, Gothic literature

The Woman in the Wallpaper, John, Mary, Narrator, Jennie

Based on the theme of madness and being powerless. According to an article in Forerunner magazine’s publication in 1913, it has been loosely based on the author's own mental illness that she has been going through because of postpartum depression.

Feminism, madness, loneliness, isolation, mental illness, fear, postpartum depression.

It has been influenced by early feminism and gender relations in late 19th-century America. It also deals with the mental breakdown and the postpartum depression, loneliness, and isolation. The Yellow Wallpaper became a symbol of a mental disease and the covering of female loneliness and lack of help after becoming a mother.

It tells a story about a woman who is obsessed with the yellow wallpaper in her room, which is a symbol of falling into psychosis as a result of depression. As the protagonist is placed on a special "cure" at the rented summer estate with her family, she becomes isolated and slowly becomes insane. It shows the structure of domestic life through the lens of madness and the early feminism outlook.

The book has been written by Gilman to persuade her physician that his ways have been wrong. The "Yellow Wallpaper" has been a helping grace for many other women to escape insanity. Some publishers believed that this story was too depressing and rejected to publish it. It is one of the earliest feminism-related stories ever published. Hysteria was among the most frequent diagnoses that was common for women in the 19th century. Gilman has never been paid for her initial publication of the story. Gilman has testified before Congress in favor of woman suffrage at the 1896 Hearing of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

“But I MUST say what I feel and think in some way — it is such a relief! But the effort is getting to be greater than the relief.” “I never saw a worse paper in my life. One of those sprawling flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin.” “You think you have mastered it, but just as you get well underway in following, it turns a back-somersault and there you are. It slaps you in the face, knocks you down, and tramples upon you. It is like a bad dream.” “John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage.” “I am glad my case is not serious! But these nervous troubles are dreadfully depressing. John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no reason to suffer, and that satisfies him.”

The culmination of this short story is so-called "rest-cure" of the Victorian times that has been meant to cure hysteria, loneliness, sadness, or any nervous condition in women living in those times.

It is an important work of art that brings up the issue of a mental breakdown that has been ignored in the 19th century. It also speaks of gender relations and the postpartum depression treatment where the men do not see any problem and choose to ignore it. As the story with the relative feminism and the use of symbols, it is a poignant story that is both disturbing and sincere to explain that the problem of depression and a mental breakdown does exist. As the essay topic, it is used to explain the gender relations and the domestic life of women.

1. Gilman, C. P. (2011). Why I Wrote the Yellow Wallpaper?. Advances in psychiatric treatment, 17(4), 265-265. 2. Lanser, S. S. (1989). Feminist criticism," The Yellow Wallpaper," and the politics of color in America. Feminist Studies, 15(3), 415-441. 3. Shumaker, C. (1985). Too terribly good to be printed": Charlotte Gilman's" The Yellow Wallpaper. American Literature, 57(4), 588-599. 4. Davison, C. M. (2004). Haunted House/Haunted Heroine: Female Gothic Closets in “The Yellow Wallpaper”. Women's Studies, 33(1), 47-75. 5. Oakley, A. (1997). Beyond the yellow wallpaper. Reproductive Health Matters, 5(10), 29-39. 6. Hume, B. A. (1991). Gilman's" interminable grotesque": The Narrator of" The Yellow Wallpaper". Studies in Short Fiction, 28(4), 477. 7. Hume, B. A. (2002). Managing Madness in Gilman's" The Yellow Wall-Paper". Studies in American Fiction, 30(1), 3-20. 8. Johnson, G. (1989). Gilman's Gothic Allegory: Rage and Redemption in The Yellow Wallpaper. Studies in Short Fiction, 26(4), 521. 9. Bak, J. S. (1994). Escaping the jaundiced eye: Foucauldian Panopticism in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's" The Yellow Wallpaper.". Studies in Short Fiction, 31(1), 39-47.

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The Yellow Wallpaper Character Analysis essay

“The Yellow Wallpaper” is a feminist short story by Charlotte Perkins- Gilman. The meaning of the story is beyond belief as it see the sights into the basic issues of a woman’s place in society, and women’s rights in the 19th century. Charlotte Perkins-Gilman’s theme behind the short story was an awareness approach and a feminist approach. The main character in the story struggles against the masculine ways of thinking and society norms or standards. She also struggles with mental depression which at the time no one thought too much about. The story tells of the close mindedness of how mental illness and depression was treated and dealt with by medical doctors and society. It tells of a woman who is the central character and speaker, who is going through what seems like a mental breakdown.

Perkins-Gilman’s central character struggles against depression and male governance, which was common in the 19th century. The central character is being imprisoned by John. She is locked away from the outside world because he believes this form of therapy will make her well. He is unaware that isolating her from the things she loves, and social contact is making her depression get worse.

The central character becomes more and more obsessed with the yellow wallpaper in the room where she spends majority of her time. ‘It is dull enough to confuse the eye in following, pronounced enough to constantly irritate and provoke study, and when you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide-plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard-of contradictions.’ (Perkins). At this moment the speaker begins to take notice to the yellow wallpaper. Focusing on the yellow wallpaper is perhaps a sort of distraction from her mental depression.

The speaker writes her emotions and feelings on paper, which she feels, must be kept a secret from John and anyone else. Restricted to this room day after day, the central character begins to study the wallpaper more. She then generates an image of a woman behind the yellow wallpaper in the room. The woman seems to be a captive behind the wallpaper, as she cannot escape.

At night she and John sleeps in the room and she remains confined to the room throughout the day. There is no mention of her ever leaving the room. To keep herself distracted she searches for fine details in the yellow wallpaper. She is captivated with this illusion of the woman being held captive behind the wallpaper. As more days go by she becomes obsessed with this illusion.

She continues to watch this woman behind the yellow wallpaper day in and day out. ‘Through watching so much at night, when it changes so, I have finally found out. The front pattern does move-and no wonder! The woman behind it shakes it! Sometimes I think there are a great many women behind, and sometimes only one, and she crawls around fast, and her crawling shakes it all over.’ (Perkins). She has lost her sense of reality. Perhaps she feels as though what she is imaging is better than her own reality. In her mind the woman is moving around trying to escape, something that she is unable to do. As the story ends the speaker found courage to help the woman get free from the wallpaper.  

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The Yellow Wallpaper: Essay Topics & Samples

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This article by experts contains The Yellow Wallpaper essay topics, The Yellow Wallpaper essay prompts, and writing samples. Go on reading if you want to learn more!

💡 The Yellow Wallpaper: Essay Topics

First of all, you should think about the topic of your writing. The Yellow Wallpaper is a story written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman at the end of the 19th century. It is considered to be one of the strongest and prominent feminist pieces of literature.

These facts might be your first clue for choosing The Yellow Wallpaper essay topic. Try to look at this issue from your perspective. It is a tip for the guaranteed success of your essay.

In case you don’t particularly fancy the theme of feminism in The Yellow Wallpaper , there are many other options. One of the best methods is highlighting the moments that stand out for you in the story. Don’t forget to write down any questions you might have during the reading to use them later.

However, if you don’t want to waste your time on it, jump straight away to the list of topics prepared for The Yellow Wallpaper essay.

✒️ The Yellow Wallpaper: Essay Samples

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Since its publication in 1915, Kafka’s The Metamorphosis puzzled readers and critics all over the world. The story centers around Gregor Samsa’s transformation into a gigantic insect. The situation is both surreal and unusual. However, the writer proceeds with the story in a realistic manner. Nevertheless, there is a lot...

The Metamorphosis: Themes

The Metamorphosis: Themes

There are several overarching themes of The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, but only two are crucial. The story starts when the central transformation has already happened. However, each character in the novella goes through its journey: Gregor, Grete, Gregor’s mother, and Gregor’s father. In this article, you’ll see how characters...

The Yellow Wallpaper Essay


The Yellow Wallpaper is a short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman that explains the sad story of a woman suffering from acute postpartum depression. Written during the dying years of the 19th century, The Yellow Wallpaper is characteristic of the mental and emotional treatment that women were subjected to during this period. Indeed, Gilman uses this short story as her “reaction” to this sort of treatment. Given the weight that Gilman gives The Yellow Wallpaper and considering her own life, one would conclude that she was indeed using the story as a reference to her life. Through reading the story, one can see a clear desire for the women in this period to entangle themselves from domination. In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story, there is a clear theme of domination of women, and society seems to be unanimous in support of it.

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The Yellow Wallpaper: Short Story Analysis

From the surface, the story seems to be addressing the narrator’s sickness, but a more in-depth analysis reveals that it is indeed talking about the condition of the womenfolk in general. The society seems to have assigned roles for women, which they are supposed to adhere to. In the story, John symbolically represents the male folk while the narrator represents the women. Throughout the story, the narrator, together with the rest of the women trapped in the wallpaper, is desperately trying to break loose from the function that the society has assigned for them. Although these women are trying as hard as they can, their courage always seems to fail them, especially at night when their husbands and the rest of the family are at home. However, their courage finally gives way, and this is why John, who represents men, faints upon realizing that his wife has finally broken free from his control. Although this observation is debatable, there is clear evidence from the story to prove this point. Right from the start, there seem to be specific duties that wives and mothers have to fulfill. These duties seem to have been so oppressive that women tend to get depressed after giving birth to their first child. This depression leads them to take the rest cure during which time they are supposed to do nothing but to eat and remain in seclusion. The rest is so extreme such that one is even forbidden from writing anything since this would be tantamount to overworking their brains, something that would hinder their recovery. This is despite the fact that the narrator knows that “congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good.” (Gilman) The oppression of women seems to have been so great that John and the narrator’s brother, both physicians, believe that the narrator is not sick despite her thinking otherwise. This happens despite the fact that they both love the narrator dearly. What is surprising is that despite this form of medication, the narrator does not seem to get any better. She wishes that she could get well faster just to escape this form of the regimen. It is obvious that the narrator views the treatment as an unnecessary interruption in her life that should not have occurred in the first place. Despite this, she is aware of the repercussions that could possibly follow her refusal to adhere to the terms of the medication. Instead of looking into the reasons why her recovery is slow, John believes that her wife is to blame something that seems to scare the narrator a great deal. This is seen when she says, “If I don’t pick up faster, he shall send me to Weir Mitchell in the fall.” (Gilman) Although we are not told what kind of a place Weir Mitchell was, there is no doubt that it was a place that instilled fear on the narrator, and this makes us wonder what kind of a husband would want to take his wife in such a place. In fact, Gilman seems to have put this statement for effect just to show us the extreme end that these men were willing to go to keep their women under control. Although the couple rents a colonial mansion for the wife to recuperate, it is ironic how she is not allowed any say in the matter. Throughout the story, John seems to know what is best for his wife, and he does not accept her output in the matter. The husband does not even allow her to choose her bedroom from the many rooms. Instead, he forces her to occupy the room with the ugly wallpaper. The narrator wants to do so many things but as it was characteristic in that period, the marriage institution that she is committed to compromises her freedom and happiness. In addition to the bedroom containing the ugly wallpaper, the room has no windows, and even the bed is bolted to prevent her from moving it to any other position. This is a clear sign of control and domination by the husband. By analyzing the lives of the women behind the wallpaper, it is obvious that they are trying to look for their freedom. On her part, the narrator is looking for freedom from her husband and the rest cure that she has been subjected to. Throughout the story, the narrator tries hard to free women from the gender bias that had seeped in society. However, this is not easy because, just like the wallpaper, these societal changes had become “ridged and yellow with age.” (Gilman) Despite John’s domination, the narrator slowly begins to take control of her life. Although she had loathed the yellow wallpaper at first, she begins gaining some mental strength just by watching it. As her mind begins to churn, she forces herself to think, and this is something that her husband does not like. Deep down her heart, she knows that her husband does not necessarily know everything, but she does not say anything for fear of reprisals. Although John has told her not to bother herself with anything, she begins analyzing the wallpaper, and that is when she notices the figure of women trying to free themselves. For once, the narrator feels that she knows something that her husband or any other person, for that matter, does not have an idea about. This is presented when she says, “there are things in that paper that nobody knows but me.” For once, the narrator is elated since she feels that she possesses first-hand knowledge that is not yet evident to her husband. For once in her life, she seems to have concluded that she has a functional mind that is entirely hers and one that she can use as she wills. Even to John, his wife is like a mystery that he is unable to solve. That is why he keeps her locked in the bedroom just to keep her under control. However, what he fails to realize is that by doing so, he is actually helping her to solve her own mystery. As the story nears climax, John seems bewildered, and he even seems to be noticing a change of attitude on the narrator. In fact, he commends her for putting an effort to get better, but she knows that she is getting well for other reasons. Although he does not admit it, John has realized that the wallpaper is a representation of his wife, and that is why he reprimands her wherever he catches her staring at it. Just with a day to go before they leave the house, the narrator masters her courage and tears down the wallpaper. The narrator’s feelings of freedom come to peak when she manages to pull down the yellow wallpaper from the walls where it had hanged. To accomplish this, she uses much will power and patience, but she finally manages to get the work done. She is convinced that John would reprimand her for tearing down the wallpaper, but for once, she is not bothered. To her, taking control of anything even if it is the “odious wallpaper” is better than just sitting and doing nothing. Indeed, tearing down the wallpaper seems only to be the first step toward her freedom. To her, she seems to have concluded that her life was in her own hands and not on Johns or any other male for that matter. Within a short time, she seems to have developed mentally as a woman. The narrator’s final victory comes when John arrives home and realizes what she has done.

To begin with, he is shocked when he realizes that she has locked the door, something that she had never done before. However, the climax arrives when he enters the room and realizes that she has torn down the wallpaper. There is no doubt in John’s mind that his wife has finally developed mentally and regained the freedom that he had for so long denied her. In fact, the shock is so much for John such that he faints. The proof that the narrator has gained mental control comes shortly after when she says that “now why should that man have fainted? But he did, and right across my path by the wall so that I had to creep over him every time.” (Gilman) At this point, she is not perturbed by what he thinks, and his fainting does not even surprise her. To her, tearing the wallpaper out of the walls is a sign of showing that she is willing to take matters into her own hands, and this is what scares the husband and makes him faint.

The Yellow Wallpaper is a clear representation of life in the 19thcentury. During this period, women seem to have been under male domination, and society seems to have accepted this fact. Throughout the story, the narrator seems to be fighting to get a voice of her own. However, her husband decides that he knows what is best for her, and he does not even give her the freedom to choose what she wants. Instead, he embarks on making all the decisions for her even on matters that directly affect her well-being. At the end of the story, the narrator regains control of her life, and this scares her husband to a point where he even faints.

Works Cited

Gilman Charlotte. The Yellow Wallpaper, 1899. Web. < >

IvyPanda. (2022, August 6). The Yellow Wallpaper.

IvyPanda. (2022, August 6). The Yellow Wallpaper. Retrieved from

"The Yellow Wallpaper." IvyPanda , 6 Aug. 2022,

1. IvyPanda . "The Yellow Wallpaper." August 6, 2022.


IvyPanda . "The Yellow Wallpaper." August 6, 2022.

IvyPanda . 2022. "The Yellow Wallpaper." August 6, 2022.

IvyPanda . (2022) 'The Yellow Wallpaper'. 6 August.

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The Yellow Wallpaper Analysis Essay

the yellow wallpaper interpretation essay

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    The Yellow Wallpaper is a story written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman at the end of the 19th century. It is considered to be one of the strongest and prominent feminist pieces of literature. These facts might be your first clue for choosing The Yellow Wallpaper essay topic. Try to look at this issue from your perspective.

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