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How does the yellow wallpaper evolve and transform in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The...

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aheald2357 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 26, 2012 at 12:14 AM via web

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How does the yellow wallpaper evolve and transform in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 26, 2012 at 3:57 AM (Answer #1)

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Charlotte Perkins Gilman suffered from depression.  The doctors at the time believed that complete bed rest and isolation from the rest of the world was the cure.  After losing more than a year to this method,  Ms. Perkins decided to join the world again. However, she said that she never fully recuperated from her isolation. After this experience, Ms. Perkins wrote "The Yellow Wallpaper."

The unnamed narrator begins the story as someone who really did not want to be where she was: out in the country, isolated, and alone most of the time. 

Her husband, John, who is a doctor, has discussed her depression (Today, this would be called post-partum depression.) with other doctors.  He believes that he is doing the best thing for his wife.

When her husband is at work, she is alone with the wallpaper.  As the narrator sinks deeper into psychosis, the wallpaper evolves.  Beginning with an annoyance of the pattern and color of the paper, the woman feels that the paper looks as though it wants to commit suicide. She is able to fool those who check on her.  They seem to feel that she is improving.

This paper looks to me as if it knew what a vicious influence it had! There is  a recurrent spot where the pattern lolls like a broken neck, and two bulbous eyes stare at you upside down.

As the woman's obsession increases, she can think about nothing but the wallpaper:

They crawl with unblinking eye.There is a sub pattern. When the sun hits it just right, there is a formation of a figure.

She is almost fond of the room because of the wallpaper.  She can think of nothing else. The figure behind the wallpaper begins to shake.

The wallpaper now has a fungus that infects everything.           Then, it has a smell which permeates her skin and hair. She cannot take her eyes off the pattern and she refuses to go outside.  The color is hideous with toadstools moving along connected.  As she watches it, the formation  becomes a woman.  The woman comes out in the daytime. 

Now, the narrator knows that she is not alone.  She and the woman can peel off the paper together. No one can touch the paper. The narrator notices that the bed has been gnawed on. 

She does not want John to come in, so she throws the key out the window. The woman ties herself up and then plans on tying up the other woman. The narrator is creeping around on the floor when her husband comes in and sees her.  He passes out. She tells him that she has gotten free despite his and Jane's efforts. 

There is a controversy about "Jane."  Two possibilities arise: "Jane" is the character in the wallpaper that the narrator has given a name.  Some critics believe that "Jane" is the name of the narrator, and she is referring to herself as in the third person. If "Jane" is the narrator, than the she has found liberation from sanity and has escaped into the regions of her own mind.

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