What is a thesis statement pertaining to symbolism in "The Yellow Wallpaper"?  

Expert Answers
linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It's difficult to give you a thesis statement without first knowing what it is you want to express about the symbolism in this story. Here's the advice the eNotes Essay Lab gives:

The thesis statement is where you will let your readers know what position you will take on your topic. When you write your thesis, don’t be shy: make a bold and factual statement that expresses your position.

So first you need to decide what your position is. What particular point(s) do you want to make? This story is full of symbols: the stair guard that is supposed to keep children from falling downstairs actually isolates the woman from the rest of the house; the fact that she is kept in what used to be the nursery; the strange woman she sees in the wallpaper. Does the color yellow have any significance? Are the shapes or patterns on the wallpaper significant.

Once you've decided what detail(s) you want to discuss, then work on an interesting way to draw the reader in to your essay.

Take a stab at writing the introduction and then post it in the Essay Lab for help. You don't even have to worry about finding it. I've pasted the direct link to the Add New Topic site for you in the sources section.

Don't forget to read the article How to Write an Introduction. That link is in the sources section as well.

Good luck!

ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You may want to focus on the most important symbol, the yellow wallpaper itself. Most critics believe that it symbolizes the mind of the main character. It can also serve as a symbol for the way women were treated in the 1800's. Textual support for this comes from the description of the pattern on the wallpaper. It has "pointless
patterns," "lame uncertain curves," and "outrageous angles" that "destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions." All of these descriptions point both to the way the narrator's mind perceives the world and the way many women were perceived when the story was written. You could also focus on some of the other symbols in the story like the nursery, which symbolizes how women were treated as babies, the barred windows, which symbolizes the oppressive rules women were supposed to obey, and/or the bed, which many see as symbolizing women's sexuality. Good luck with your paper.

mbolan | Student

You could write your thesis from several points of view:

  1. You could write a thesis form a feminist or psychological point of view describing what you see as an abuse of women by a patriarchal society.
  2. A thesis from an historical point of view that details your opinion of how women were treated during the late nineteenth century.
  3. Or you could approach your thesis by depicting how symbolism is used throughout the story to describe the narrator’s degenerating mental health.

After you read the story several times, ask yourself, what stands out as the most important element of the story for you. Find your own unique interpretation and develop that into your thesis. Sometimes it takes a couple of readings and a little thought to find your own individual thesis. For me, a thesis reveals itself in the same way that a sculptor uncovers the statue within the stone. The thesis is inside you.

kc7092 | Student

The Yellow Wallpaper Thesis Statements and Important Quotes

Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements / paper topics for “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman that can be used as essay starters. All five incorporate at least one of the themes found in “The Yellow Wallpaper” and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement for “The Yellow Wallpaper”. These thesis statements offer a summary of different elements of “The Yellow Wallpaper” that could be important in an essay but you are free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with “The Yellow Wallpaper” and writing an excellent paper. Before you begin, however, please get some useful tips and hints about how to use PaperStarter.com in the brief User’s Guide…you’ll be glad you did.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: The Significance of First-Person Narration in “The Yellow Wallpaper”
The central character in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” narrates her own life; however, the reader never learns her name. Gilman has cleverly taken the reader into the inner-most realms of a woman’s mind and experiences, yet the woman in “The Yellow Wallpaper” remains anonymous, a reflection of her status in society. Narration, of course, is an important element of any story or novel, and as readers, we are always evaluating whether the narrator of “The Yellow Wallpaper” is credible and reliable. The narrator of “The Yellow Wall-Paper” appears credible as the story opens, but as her mental state deteriorates, does her narrative follow suit? As you read this story, consider the role that narration plays in the development of the plot and the theme. How might the story of “The Yellow Wallpaper” have been different, for instance, if it had been told by the woman’s husband? Other important questions include: Why is it important that the woman narrator have the agency and the voice to tell her own story? What effects does this particular choice of narration have on establishing a connection with the reader and eliciting certain emotional responses.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: “The Yellow Wall-Paper” as a Feminist Story

“The Yellow Wall-Paper” was written in 1892, and is often referred to as a feminist short story. Given that the woman in the story goes mad because her role in society is limited and her ability to express herself creatively is constricted, can the reader assume that the author is making a feminist statement? This topic could take at least two different approaches. You could either situate the story within a larger sociohistorical context (i.e.: What was happening in 1892 that made this particular story so relevant and resonant, and why does it remain so important today?), or you could take the story only on its own terms: What does Gilman seem to say about “the female condition” in general by writing about the life of this one woman and her descent into madness in “The Yellow Wall Paper”?




tkey511 | Student

Paper, paper on the wall, pointless patterns, uncertain curves, outrageous angles that destroy my nerves; I trave around , and I do find, I must escape before I lose my mind.

Thesis statement, you like?

thewanderlust878 | Student

The Yellow Wallpaper is one of my most favorite short stories. It is extremely powerful and the symbolism is definitely a huge part of the story. I also believe that a good symbol to use would be the wallpaper itself. It is the biggest symbol of the entire story (hence the name, The Yellow Wallpaper). You could describe how the wallpaper, more specifically the pattern of the wallpaper, symbolizes the patterns and societal norms that women during that time period were forced and stuck in. 

Hope this helps!

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The Yellow Wallpaper

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