Why is the bed nailed down in "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

While we are never told explicitly why the bed is nailed down in "The Yellow Wallpaper," this detail suggests that the narrator is a prisoner. If the bed could move, she could use it to try to escape.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The fact that the bed in her room is nailed down is an ominous sign that the narrator of "The Yellow Wallpaper " is being treated like a prisoner who might move the bed to try to escape or harm herself. The bed being nailed down is mentioned twice...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

The fact that the bed in her room is nailed down is an ominous sign that the narrator of "The Yellow Wallpaper" is being treated like a prisoner who might move the bed to try to escape or harm herself. The bed being nailed down is mentioned twice in the story. The second reference is the most ominous. The narrator records that

So now ... things are gone, and there is nothing left but that great bedstead nailed down, with the canvas mattress we found on it.

This suggests that rather than listen to her pleas that she needs more mental stimulation, John has gone in the opposite direction: he has had more and more items removed from the room as his wife mentally deteriorates. He thinks this will help accelerate her rest cure, but in fact, it seems to have had the opposite effect and caused her to more rapidly worsen.

By the time she is left alone with the immobile bed, which symbolizes the attempt to immobilize and restrict her, the narrator is far gone in terms of her mental health. She has been reduced to the status of an animal. In response, she behaves like one, ripping the yellow wallpaper off the wall and fearfully creeping around the perimeter of the room. Depriving her of sensory stimulation has had the opposite effect from what was intended. Rather than cure her, it has driven her into psychosis.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team