The narrator sees women creeping about and, in the final descent into madness, she is crawling around the baseboards. What is this symbolic of?
The narrator of the story initially suffers from postpartum depression, which transforms into psychosis as a result of the unhealthy "rest cure." The narrator's husband does not recognize that the "rest cure" is negatively affecting his wife's mental state as she begins to hallucinate and see a trapped woman inside the hideous yellow wallpaper. As the story progresses, the narrator's psychosis worsens and she attempts to free the imaginary woman trapped behind the wallpaper. Eventually, the narrator completely loses touch with reality and plans on capturing the woman after tearing down the wallpaper. By the end of the story, the narrator has transformed into a mentally ill woman, who crawls throughout the upstairs room, gnawing on the bedstead and examining the torn wallpaper.
The yellow wallpaper symbolically represents the oppressive nature of domestic life for females while the trapped woman symbolically represents women like the narrator, who are victims of a male-dominated society. The actions of the women and narrator symbolically represent their social status and treatment in society. Women are forced to "creep" and remain passive at all times. Crawling is a behavior typically associated with children, which is how women are treated and viewed in the oppressive patriarchal society. Gilman's short story is not only a criticism of the "rest cure" but an indictment of the oppressive, male-dominated society.
check Approved by eNotes Editorial