In "The Yellow Wallpaper," what's the narrator's initial reaction and description of the wallpaper?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is clear that the narrator of this excellent short story does not like the wallpaper that is in the room where she is forced to recuperate and rest at first. She describes the pattern as "committing every artistic sin," for example and then also characterises the colour as "repellant" in the way that it is a "smouldering unclean yellow." However, perhaps the most interesting description of the paper is shown in the following paragraph:

It is dull enough to confuse the eye in following, pronounced enough to constantly irritate and provoke study, and when you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide--plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard-of contradictions.

The personification of the wallpaper as representing people who are committing suicide and "plunging" off at "outrageous angles" and "destroying themselves" represent the most disturbing description of the wallpaper. In a sense, this description could be said to foreshadow the fascination that the narrator has with the wallpaper and the way that she comes to commit a form of mental suicide by the end of the tale.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The narrator initially describes the yellow wallpaper as being the worst paper she has ever seen in her life. She elaborates on the awful design of the wallpaper by mentioning that it has a "sprawling flamboyant" pattern that commits every "artistic sin." The narrator goes on to describe the pattern of the wallpaper as being confusing and irritating, yet interesting. When the narrator follows the uncertain curves, they suddenly "commit suicide" by plunging into odd angles, essentially "destroying themselves in unheard of contradictions." This personification of the design in the wallpaper foreshadows the narrator's impending insanity. The narrator also mentions that the color of the wallpaper is repellent and revolting. She proceeds to mention that she would hate the room if she had to live in it very long. Overall, the narrator has a negative reaction when she first sees the yellow wallpaper. Her initial comments regarding the wallpaper also foreshadow her mental anguish. 

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The Yellow Wallpaper

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