What is the story "The Yellow Wallpaper" about, and what is the theme?

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This story is about a woman who has just had a baby, and she seems to be suffering from what we would call postpartum depression. However, this is not a diagnosis that existed in the late-nineteenth century; instead, she is diagnosed by her husband-doctor with a "temporary nervous depression—a slight...

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This story is about a woman who has just had a baby, and she seems to be suffering from what we would call postpartum depression. However, this is not a diagnosis that existed in the late-nineteenth century; instead, she is diagnosed by her husband-doctor with a "temporary nervous depression—a slight hysterical tendency." Her husband and brother, also a doctor, believe that the speaker can get better as long as she rests and does no work: she is "absolutely forbidden to 'work' until [she is] well again." The speaker is given little to no ability to participate in conversations about her health or treatments, and "disagree[s] with their ideas," believing that "congenial work, with excitement and change, would do [her] good."

She feels that if she had "less opposition" and more opportunity to see people and do things that she enjoys—like writing—then she would improve more rapidly and she would begin to feel better. After months of being treated, it seems, with what was called the rest cure, a treatment invented by Weir Mitchell, the doctor to which the speaker refers at one point, she begins to lose her mind. Completely isolated and attempting to deal with her rational (but socially unacceptable) anger against her husband, she begins to imagine that a woman lives, captive, in her wallpaper, and she makes it her mission to free this woman. Once she succeeds in tearing all the paper off the walls, she suddenly believes that she is the wallpaper-woman, now free from her wallpaper prison. The theme of the story seems to be that patients ought to have a say in their own treatments, and their experience should be validated by their doctors rather than belittled or written off.

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