By ripping off the yellow wallpaper, the narrator is trying to escape her prison, and the prison shared by other women of her era and social standing. She is locked in a nursery with bars on the window, while her husband and brother--both physicians--tell her what is good for her. She is conflicted by their advice and actions because her heart tells her to act otherwise. Thus, she hides her writing. In reality, she wants to experience the slings and arrows of life and not be protected.
"Then the floor is scratched and gouged and splintered, the plaster itself is dug out here and there, and this great heavy bed which is all we found in the room, looks as if it had been through the wars.
But I don't mind it a bit--only the paper."
The narrator is so confined in this world that she even lacks a name.
By tearing the wallpaper, the narrator seeks escape. In her quest for freedom, however, she succumbs to the treatment of females in her society and loses her mind. She becomes one of the woman creeping in the wallpaper.
"Now why should that man have fainted? But he did, and right across my path by the wall, so that I had to creep over him every time!"