What symbolism is used in the story "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

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The primary symbol in the story is, unsurprisingly, the wallpaper itself. The wallpaper starts out in the story as something slightly off or irksomely unappealing. It is perhaps due to this aspect of it that the narrator, already in a seemingly fragile mental state, fixates on it in her isolation and thinks of it as something that she must unravel and understand.

The pattern of the wallpaper is formless. Hour after hour, she puzzles over it, until she begins to see an illusory second pattern in the negative space—a pattern that she eventually recognizes as a woman that seems desperate to escape.

This is the true nature of the symbolism of the wallpaper. It represents the prison of family, societal conditioning, and culture that imprisons women who deviate from the norm even slightly. The prison has no concern for the narrator's actual well-being, only how suited she is for public appearance. It is because of this, perhaps, that the narrator feels compelled to tear it apart.

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In " The...

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