What should we make of the weird ending of "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

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The story's end is indeed ambiguous and puts the onus on the reader to interpret possible meanings.

A way to read the story overall is that a woman has been infantilized, closed into a converted nursery and forbidden to write by her husband and brother. If this story were written...

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The story's end is indeed ambiguous and puts the onus on the reader to interpret possible meanings.

A way to read the story overall is that a woman has been infantilized, closed into a converted nursery and forbidden to write by her husband and brother. If this story were written today, readers would quickly surmise that she is suffering from postpartum depression, and instead of being isolated, she should be treated with therapy and/or medication. Her slow psychological unraveling as the story progresses builds readers' sympathy, especially because she is so often left on her own with no one to understand her struggle.

She comes to identify with a woman stuck in an ugly, imprisoning place: behind outdated yellow wallpaper. By torturously removing the wallpaper, she releases the woman, a projection of her own psyche. She conceals the process from her husband because she knows that he or his emissary (Jennie) will prevent her from freeing herself.

One way to read the ending is that she has succeeded in freeing herself, but when she reveals what she has done to the world, represented by her husband, he cannot handle such a revolutionary act and loses consciousness.

Another way to look at the story is that the woman has completely lost touch with reality and regressed to crawling in a destroyed room. Her husband's "rest cure" has ironically backfired and driven her mad.

These two possible interpretations of the story's end offer two opposing moods. The first is more optimistic, though her victory has come at great personal cost and suggests that society will be less than accepting. The second pessimistically observes that women trying to free themselves will likely lose their minds because of the persistent obstacles of society, symbolized by John's prostrate body.

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