The narrator feels confined physically and emotionally. The two are related as a result of her husband's behavior: He aims to control her because of his perception of what marriage entails. As a physician, he believes that isolation is helping her. He has the idea that she stay in a separate room, and he selects one that has an adjoining room where he can sleep—and keep an eye on her.
The woman remarks that her husband belittles her opinions: “John laughs at me, of course....” She sees this as a given within marriage. She also admits that she tries to conceal her true feelings from him and aims for self-control in front of him. These self-censorships often spill over into anger, however, which provides her with an emotional release. Although John promotes his theory that she only has a “temporary nervous depression,” she has secretly tried to continue her preferred activities, mainly writing.
I did write for a while in spite of them; but it DOES exhaust me a good deal—having to be so sly about it, or else meet with heavy opposition.
Again she admits that she continues writing the text we are reading, despite its tiring effect.
[T]here is nothing to hinder my writing as much as I please, save lack of strength.
The narrator tries to exert control over the physical environment by changing the appearance of the room, as she hates the wallpaper. Not realizing that her own mind is creating the illusion of movement both on the wallpaper’s surface and behind it, she becomes convinced that a woman is imprisoned on the other side of the paper. She believes that this “faint figure… wanted to get out.” To free this woman—her alter ego—she pulls the paper off the walls. Finally, as she realizes they are one and the same, she exults in the temporary liberation she has achieved.
It is so pleasant to be out in this great room and creep around as I please!