What is one example of direct characterization and one example of indirect characterization in "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

With Charlotte Perkins Gilman's unreliable narrator, the depiction of the other characters involved in the narrative of "The Yellow Wallpaper" are, of course, tinted by her perspective.

1. Direct Characterization involves direct statements that give the narrator's opinion of the character.

One character for whom the narrator provides direct characterization is her husband, John. In the exposition, for instance, she describes John, who is a physician as

...practical in the extreme. He has no patience with faith, an intense horror of superstition, and he scoffs openly at any talk of things not to be felt and seen and put down in figures. 

Further in the story, the narrator describes her husband as

so queer [meaning strange] now that I don't want to irritate him.

This description is rather incongruous with the early one of the exposition, a fact that indicates that the narrator is probably interpreting what John does in terms of her own perceptions.

2. Indirect Characterization involves several methods:

  • a physical description of a character
  • a description of the character's actions
  • a recording of the character's thoughts, feeling, and speeches
  • a recording of other character's reactions and comments about the character

Gilman's narrator provides her own characterization as she records her thoughts, feelings, and words in a journal.  It is from these recordings of the narrator's perceptions and feelings, that the reader witnesses her gradual breakdown. For instance, at first the narrator writes that she lay awake for hours

...trying to decide whether that front pattern and the back pattern really did move together or separately.

As she continues to scrutinize this wallpaper, the narrator notes that

There is one marked peculiarity about this paper, a thing nobody seems to notice but myself, and that is that it changes as the light changes.

Later, the narrator decides the front pattern moves,

...and no wonder! The woman behind it shakes it!

Sometimes i think there are a great many women behind, and sometimes only one, and she crawls around fast, and her crawling shakes it all over!

These observations of the narrator become even more bizarre as she feels that the woman tries to escape from the hideously colored wallpaper as do others, and as she does.

Read the study guide:
The Yellow Wallpaper

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question