In "The Yellow Wallpaper," why does the yellow wallpaper bother the narrator whose name is "Jane"?    

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sensei918 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

  The narrator of the story never actually identifies herself, and she is never called by name by any of the other characters in the story.  Her husband only refers to her with condescending terms of endearment like "little girl" or "blessed goose." Some critics believe that Jane might actually be the narrator and that Jane is referred to in third person to show that the narrator feels completely disassociated from herself and reality. 

The narrator is a woman who is suffering from post-partum depression after the birth of her child, and her story is based on the author's own bout with that condition. In the 19th century, doctors did not know about this condition and considered women with the condtion to be hysterical and needing "rest cures."  The problem with this was that the rest cure, for the narrator, was the very thing that drove her crazy, and the wallpaper was a symbol for her feeling of imprisonment. Nobody would take her seriously; they told her not to do any of the things that would have actually made her feel better; kept her in a room with bars on the windows and ugly paper on the wall; away from friends and family; and consigned to do nothing but rest. The wallpaper was the repository of all of her feelings, and gradually she began to deteriorate, finally breaking down altogether. 

Gilman herself recovered from her depression and deeply resented the way she had been treated by doctors while she was suffering. The story is, in part, a cautionary tale for women who listen more to their doctors and men of authority than they do to themselves. 

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The Yellow Wallpaper

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