The Yellow Wallpaper Questions and Answers
by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The Yellow Wallpaper book cover
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Explain how the wallpaper confuses and disgusts the narrator.

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In the early part of the story, the first-person narrator expresses some concern about certain qualities of the small quarters she is occupying, including the wallpaper. However, she accepts the ugly paper because her stay in the room will be temporary. She has come to the summer house at her husband’s request, because he believes she is ill, and she would prefer a ground-floor room with a garden view. He convinces her to stay in that room because his is next door. The walls’ yellow color seems repulsive and unclean, and it reminds her of illness and a bad smell, with its “sickly sulphur tint.” The patterns in the wallpaper are a different problem than the color; it “is dull enough to confuse the eye” and suggest agitated movement, which makes her uneasy. She even compares the abrupt ends of pattern parts to suicide and self-destruction.

The narrator cannot tune out environmental factors that annoy or disturb her. Soon, she becomes fixated on the patterns, which seem to have dimension rather than being flat. She becomes convinced that the vines are actually are moving and even strangling each other. The yellow background assumes an aura of rot or decay that nauseates her. Further confusion follows, as she begins to see the entire paper as alive, not just the vines. She perceives that the paper coming off the wall because someone is trapped behind it and trying to escape. She must remove the paper to free that creeping woman, whom she finally identifies as herself.

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