Please give the summary of "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This excellent short story explores in the short story form a woman's experience of post-natal depression and highlights many of the practices that were actually adopted by doctors to "help" such patients, but only served to make their depression worse. This story was based on the author's own experience of depression, and as such it has a vitality and truth to it that gives it real significance.

The story is based around a first person narrative of a woman suffering depression after her child's birth. Supposedly for her own good, her husband, who is presented as a loving and caring man, says she must stay in bed in a room which is notable for its bizarre yellow wallpaper that the narrator, having nothing else to do, spends a lot of time looking at, trying to trace and work out the pattern. As the story progresses and the narrator descends ever further into madness, she begins to think she can see a woman trapped behind the first layer of the wallpaper and trying to get out. She is described as shaking the lines of the pattern as if they were bars on a cage. Finally, the story reaches its climax when the narrator tries to free this woman by ripping down the wallpaper, and begins to walk around the edge of the room herself, as if she has so completely identified with the woman that she is now trapped there too. Note how this represents her descent into lunacy, but also how she identifies herself with her alter-ego that she has created: both women are frustrated and trapped: intellectually, emotionally, psychologically and physically.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial