In "The Yellow Wallpaper," by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, how is change/movement in the narrator shown?

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vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Change is an important theme in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” – not only the change that takes place in the narrator herself but also the change that occurs in the responses of others to her. In addition, other instances of change can also the noted. However, since all the changes in the entire story are seen from the perspective of the first-person narrator, all the examples of change are in some ways relevant to changes in the narrator herself. Examples of all these various kinds of change include the following:

  • The change involved in the arrival of the narrator and her husband at the house, and also the apparent change (for the worse) in her mental condition.
  • The change in the house and estate themselves before the couple arrived there:

There were greenhouses, too, but they are all broken now.

The broken greenhouses help symbolize and foreshadow the mental break-down on the narrator.

  • The narrator’s growing frustration and even anger with her husband, John.
  • The narrator’s growing physical and mental exhaustion (at least until the very end of the story).
  • The speaker’s changing perceptions of the wallpaper, which comes to seem more and more threatening and impossible to ignore.
  • The narrator’s growing suspicion of almost everyone around her, as when she says,

There comes John's sister. Such a dear girl as she is, and so careful of me! I must not let her find me writing.

  • The narrator’s growing emotionalism, as when she says, “I cry at nothing, and cry most of the time.”
  • The narrator’s growing isolation, both literally and mentally.
  • The narrator’s growing fear of her husband.
  • The narrator’s growing suspiciousness both of her husband and of Jennie.
  • The narrator’s sense that life is becoming more and more “exciting.”
  • The narrator’s growing obsession with, and alarm over, the wallpaper.
  • The narrator’s growing sensitivity in general, as when she thinks she smells disturbing odors.
  • The narrator’s growing sense that an increasingly mysterious and increasingly active woman supposedly lives in the wallpaper.
  • The narrator’s ever-increasing mental deterioration.
  • The ultimate change in John, who at first seems a figure of totally rational and in control but who finally seems a figure who feels weak and overwhelmed. John's surprising change is prompted, of course, when he witnesses the astonishing final transformation in his wife.





verjnuarmu | Student

I have watched John when he did not know I was looking, and come into the room suddenly on the most innocent excuses, and I’ve caught him several times looking at the paper! And Jennie too. I caught Jennie with her hand on it once.

That quote shows us that the narrator starts to prepare the reader to the upcoming changes. After that moment, narrator(character) leaves back the suspects of her about non-existence of the woman on the wall. She totally believes the existence of her.

If you pay attention, you can see that before that quotation she does not speak in an unreliable tone, on the contrast she shows the proof of some suspect of her sanity.

I hope this will be helpful for you...

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The Yellow Wallpaper

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