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What symbolism is represented in "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

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peggyhouse | Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 27, 2007 at 1:29 PM via web

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What symbolism is represented in "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

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renelane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted November 27, 2007 at 1:47 PM (Answer #2)

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The yellow wallpaper itself is the most obvious symbol in this story. The wallpaper represents the protagonist's mind set during this time. It further symbolizes the way women were perceived during the 19th century. The wallpaper cannot be categorized into any particular "type". It contains patterns, angles, and curves that all contradict one another, and it can be seen the same could be said for the wife's emotions during this time.

The nursery is a symbol of the way women of this time were seen as being on the same level as children. The barred windows are symbols of the confinement of women during this time with respect to the perception of what a woman's role was.

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kwoo1213 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted July 23, 2008 at 11:08 PM (Answer #3)

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As for symbolic actions, the narrator's tearing down the wallpaper in an attempt to find the "woman" in the wallpaper represents her struggle to retain or regain her sanity.  The wallpaper has been part of her confinement and by her tearing it down, she is freeing herself from that confinement.

Another symbol is the narrator's writings in her notebook and the notebook itself.  Both represent the narrator's attempt to have normalcy and sanity during this horrible ordeal of being locked in her room.  Despite being told by her husband that he wants to limit the amount of time she uses to write, she continues to write more behind his back and this is her tie to her own sanity and sense of reality (whatever her reality is at this time).  

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ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted April 10, 2010 at 9:03 AM (Answer #4)

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I might also add, the ugliness with which the wallpaper is described could be compared to the ugliness of her situation. She is being oppressed by the men in her life and by her inability to break the chains of their dominance in order to escape.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 24, 2011 at 6:41 PM (Answer #5)

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Of course, the woman trapped behind the yellow wallpaper is the narrator herself.  By pulling down this wallpaper, the narrator feels that she is tearing away the malevolent forces that restrict her [yellow is the color of evil], or "wall" her in.

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relativedistance | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 3, 2012 at 11:17 PM (Answer #6)

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As for symbolic actions, the narrator's tearing down the wallpaper in an attempt to find the "woman" in the wallpaper represents her struggle to retain or regain her sanity.  The wallpaper has been part of her confinement and by her tearing it down, she is freeing herself from that confinement.

Another symbol is the narrator's writings in her notebook and the notebook itself.  Both represent the narrator's attempt to have normalcy and sanity during this horrible ordeal of being locked in her room.  Despite being told by her husband that he wants to limit the amount of time she uses to write, she continues to write more behind his back and this is her tie to her own sanity and sense of reality (whatever her reality is at this time).  

I have been told by my interpretation of fiction professor that the "notebook" that she was writing in wasn't really a notebook, it was the wallpaper itself. this can be inferred because several times in the story she explains that the husbands sister and her husband were caught staring at the wallpaper almost as if reading it. It's just some food for thought, everything can be interpreted in different ways.

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melissa1106 | Student, Grade 11 | Salutatorian

Posted July 14, 2014 at 8:38 PM (Answer #7)

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The yellow wallpaper in the short story “ The Yellow Wallpaper” is a symbol for whom the narrator actually is and how she truly feels. When the wallpaper starts to reveal bars, it shows that she truly feels trapped and secluded. Also as the wallpaper becomes more intricate, she starts to see women behind it which shows that she has become more mentally unstable. “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 (Gilman 9).” The women crawling behind the wallpaper also show how she feels confined to the walls of her room. The narrator tears up the wallpaper at the end, which shows that she does not want to accept how crazy she has become.

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