In "The Yellow Wallpaper" why are they living in this colonial mansion? What is its history? Does the heroine feel comfortable in the house?

Expert Answers
mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The narrator had just had a baby, and afterwards, had been feeling down and depressed.  Today, we know this as post-partum depression; in her day, it was labelled as an unknown "temporary nervous depression."  Her husband, a doctor, determines that she needs to get away from her busy life and rest.  He chooses to rent out an old colonial mansion in the countryside.  Supposedly, the removal from busy pressures and responsibilities of her old life, in combination with the fresh country air, will help the narrator to rest and recover.

The mansion was home to wealthy people at one point; she is put in the nursery, a room where children were tended by their nannies.  She describes the torn wallpaper, the marks in the wood of the bed, and other signs of children having been in the room.  The mansion is empty now because of "legal trouble...about the heirs and coheirs."  So the people that were supposed to inherit the estate are having money problems, so it's been emptied and rented for cheap.

The narrator hates the place, especially the room she's been put into.  She feels right off that there is "something wrong" with it; at first she thinks it is haunted, but dismisses it and tries to be happy with her circumstances.  However, as time passes, her distaste for the house, and especially the wallpaper in her room, grows, then turns into a strange and unhealthy fascination.

I hope that those thoughts helped; good luck!

favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator


The protagonist of the story has been brought to this "colonial mansion, a hereditary estate" as a part of her husband's treatment of her "slight hysterical tendency."  She has recently had a child, and she appears to be nervous and agitated around the infant (and so her sister-in-law manages his care).  The narrator is uncomfortable and believes that her husband is overreacting to her "nervous condition" by confining her to this house and preventing her from having any mental or social stimulation.  

The narrator describes the mansion as having been "let so cheaply" to her family after having "stood so long untenanted."  Further, there are some oddities about her room: there are bars on the windows, for instance.  There is also a gate at the top of the stairs, the giant bed is nailed down, and there are "rings and things in the walls."  Why on earth would children need a giant bed or for it to be nailed down?  Why would there need to be bars on the doors or a gate at the stairs if the children who supposedly lived there were watched by governesses and nursemaids?  What possible call would there be for what sounds like restraining devices on the walls?  No, it seems more likely that this is a place where people take their wives to recover from whatever has caused their "hysteria."  The bars prevent the women from jumping, just as the narrator herself considers; the gate keeps them captive.  

jwille1981 | Student

The Mansion adds to the Gothic sub genre and macabre subject matter, it sets a tone of  the house almost being huanted, as the narrator states in the beginning of the story.

Hope this helps

Read the study guide:
The Yellow Wallpaper

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question