What is the significance of the wallpapered room in the story "The Yellow Wallpaper?"  

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper," the narrator is confined to a house after suffering post-partum depression. She describes her bedroom as follows:

It is a big, airy room, the whole floor nearly, with windows that look all ways, and air and sunshine galore. ...
The paint and paper look as if a boys' school had used it. It is stripped off--the paper in great patches all around the head of my bed, about as far as I can reach, and in a great place on the other side of the room low down. I never saw a worse paper in my life.
The color is repellent, almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight.
(Gilman, "The Yellow Wallpaper," library.csi.cuny.edu)

Because her doctor husband believes her to be suffering from hysteria, he allows her no stimulation at all, no reading, music, or guests. Because of this, and his well-meaning but condescending attitude, she is forced to gain stimulation from only the things in the house, and since the wallpaper in her room is so "revolting," it becomes of interest. Her confinement stretches on and she creates a fantasy world where she was not the first woman to be confined here; the wallpaper and its strange patterns allow pareidolia, the human instinct to find order in chaos and pattern in randomness. Because the wallpaper is the most visually stimulating thing in the house, it lends itself to her fantasies to the point where she is overcome with them, and places herself into the role of a "creeping woman" to escape the confinement. Even though she hates being trapped, she mentally traps herself in the room to escape; her own mind is her refuge, and the room with its wallpaper is her only environment, so she reorders the world to allow her freedom.

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The Yellow Wallpaper

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