Discussion Topic

Analysis and interpretation of "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Summary:

"The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a critique of the treatment of women's mental health in the 19th century. The story follows a woman confined by her husband to a room with yellow wallpaper, symbolizing the oppressive structures that limit her freedom and contribute to her mental deterioration. Through her descent into madness, Gilman highlights the damaging effects of patriarchal control.

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Can you provide a critical analysis of "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

A critical analysis has the same basic elements as any other sort of essay, needing a thesis that you support throughout the essay in your body paragraphs.  Because this is a literary analysis, you will need to have a thesis that is the important point about the story that you want the reader to understand as he or she reads your essay.  That point is one you will want to explore, either through just the evidence of the story itself, or with the story and some external sources, too. 

Let me give you a few examples of the kinds of thesis you might explore in this story. One theme in the story is the treatment of the wife by the husband, how paternalistic it is. Another is that women who are mentally ill are "punished" for their feelings.  Yet another possibility is a contrast with how mental illness was treated then and how it is treated today.  Or you could contrast the relationships between men and women then and now, if you think they have changed any.  You might also think about how the author uses symbolism in the story. What does the yellow wallpaper represent to the woman?  Any of these would make a great thesis for your essay, and you will be able to think of some other ideas, too.  (Some teachers want only the story analyzed, with no outside information, but this is something you can clarify with your teacher.)

Once you have a thesis, you must think about how to support it, and incorporate that support into your thesis statement.  For example, I might decide to write about the paternalistic treatment of the wife.  So, my thesis statement could be this:

The paternalistic treatment of the wife by her husband is shown throughout "The Yellow Wallpaper" in his disrespect for her feelings, his banishing her to an isolated room, and in his taking away all of her responsibilities. 

Now, for each of points, I will write a paragraph about what in the story supports each point. 

To organize your essay, you will need an introduction that leads the reader into your main idea, an introduction that names the story and its author and that ends with your thesis statement.  Then will come your body paragraphs, each discussing one idea that supports your thesis. Finally, you need a conclusion that reminds the reader what your thesis is and that reviews, briefly, for the reader, the points you have made. 

Just remember that this is an essay like any other essay in its structure.  Analyze the story and stick to the structure.  

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Can you provide a brief description of the story "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

Unfortunately, for me to log an approved response I need to do at least ninety words, so I won't be perhaps giving you the short answer that you are looking for! However, if I were you I would review the entire short story and try and approach this task in the following way. Introduce the main character and the setting in the first sentence. Include the progression of the plot in the second and third sentence and then in the final sentence mention how the story is resolved. Having a framework like this might help you structure your response might help you structure your question.

"The Yellow Wallpaper" therefore is a first person narrative based on the experience of a woman suffering depression after the birth of her child. For her own good, her husband confines her to a room with strange yellow wallpaper that the narrator becomes increasingly obsessed with. Eventually the narrator imagines she sees a woman behind the first "layer" of the wallpaper, moving around and shaking the pattern as if it were the bars of a cage. The story ends when she tries to release the woman and walks around the room herself, as if she has assumed the persona of the trapped woman that she imagines, cementing her descent into insanity.

This is just an example but I hope this gives you an idea of what you can achieve. Good luck!

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Who is the figure in "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

According to the narrator, there are several women behind the wallpaper. Near the end of the story, she peels off all the wallpaper that she can reach, but some of it sticks. While pulling the paper, she notices, "All those strangled heads and bulbous eyes..." Further, the narrator expresses her suicidal tendency, remarking that jumping out of the window would be "admirable exercise," but she does not like the look of the windows--

...there are so many of those creeping women....I wonder if they all come out of that wallpaper as I did?"

While there is an ambiguity about just who is perceived behind the wallpaper, one interpretation is that the narrator perceives repressed women, or various facets of herself as part of her delusions about the wallpaper, which is a visualization of the oppressive conditions in which she is forced to live. The mention of Jane at the end of the story has also been interpreted as her real self in contrast to the envisaged personae behind the wallpaper. 

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What symbolism is represented in "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

Of course, the woman trapped behind the yellow wallpaper is the narrator herself.  By pulling down this wallpaper, the narrator feels that she is tearing away the malevolent forces that restrict her [yellow is the color of evil], or "wall" her in.

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What symbolism is represented in "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

I might also add, the ugliness with which the wallpaper is described could be compared to the ugliness of her situation. She is being oppressed by the men in her life and by her inability to break the chains of their dominance in order to escape.

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What symbolism is represented in "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

As for symbolic actions, the narrator's tearing down the wallpaper in an attempt to find the "woman" in the wallpaper represents her struggle to retain or regain her sanity.  The wallpaper has been part of her confinement and by her tearing it down, she is freeing herself from that confinement.

Another symbol is the narrator's writings in her notebook and the notebook itself.  Both represent the narrator's attempt to have normalcy and sanity during this horrible ordeal of being locked in her room.  Despite being told by her husband that he wants to limit the amount of time she uses to write, she continues to write more behind his back and this is her tie to her own sanity and sense of reality (whatever her reality is at this time).  

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What symbolism is represented in "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

The yellow wallpaper itself is the most obvious symbol in this story. The wallpaper represents the protagonist's mind set during this time. It further symbolizes the way women were perceived during the 19th century. The wallpaper cannot be categorized into any particular "type". It contains patterns, angles, and curves that all contradict one another, and it can be seen the same could be said for the wife's emotions during this time.

The nursery is a symbol of the way women of this time were seen as being on the same level as children. The barred windows are symbols of the confinement of women during this time with respect to the perception of what a woman's role was.

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What is the significance of the setting in "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

"The Yellow Wallpaper" takes place in a colonial mansion in the countryside. The narrator describes it as beautiful but isolated. Thus, she states,

it is quite alone, standing well back from the road, quite three miles from the village.

This detail is important, given just how critical the theme of isolation is within the story, with its main character, who is already depressed, finding herself further isolated within the house. However, even within the isolation of the house, it is important to note that most of the story is set within an even more confined space: the nursery, which contains the yellow wallpaper that the main character both detests and fixates on.

These details of physical setting are critical in shaping the themes and plot of the story, given its deeply psychological undertones (undertones that are tied closely with its feminist criticisms). One can observe a sense of chauvinism in the husband's treatment of his wife. He neither listens to nor respects her own subjective experiences concerning her own psychological state; he confines her to this house, appealing to his medical expertise when stating that it is for her own good. Thus, while the husband spends much of his time at his profession as a doctor, his wife finds herself stewing in her isolation and depression, deteriorating further and further over time. With that in mind, this sense of physical space (represented within the house and the room) is a critical component to the story, given these themes of isolation and confinement and their effect on one's psychological state.

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What is the significance of the setting in "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

Interestingly, the unnamed narrator of Gilman's "The Yellow Wallppaper" begins her narrative with this description of the house that is her medical retreat,

A colonial mansion, a hereditary estate, I would say a haunted house....


Further, she describes,

It is quite alone, quite three miles from the village, standing well back from the road, ...there are hedges and walls and gates that lock, and lots of separate little houses for gardeners and people.

Clearly, the setting holds much significance as it indicates the isolation to which the woman will soon be subjected, as well as a sense of imprisonment. The narrator herself is prescient as she feels "something strange" about the place in addition to her dislike for her room.  She prefers one downstairs that has lovely chintz curtains with roses all over the window and a door that opens onto the piazza; however, her husband John confines her to an upstairs room that has bars on the windows and a "repellent" and "smouldering unclean yellow" wallpaper which she claims is the worst she has ever seen.  It is, she observes ,


One of those sprawling flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin....[It] commit[s] every artistic sin....

At first repulsed aesthetically by the design and color of the wallpaper, the unnerved narrator, left to "rest" by herself, finds little else to focus upon than this paper that is hideous to her. And, with the narrator's internalizations upon her mental and physical state, she begins significantly to project her inner feelings onto the paper.  In an eerie foreshadowing of the final crisis, the narrator describes the paper with continuing prescience,

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.

This hideous paper becomes for the narrator symbolic as she envisions a woman who, like herself, must hide and creep behind the "patterns" of the Victorian femme covert laws that suppress wives. In her effort to free herself from her repression and depression, the narrator tries to free the envisioned woman who is in need of rescue.  But, in this effort, the narrator sacrifices her own identity.  For, while she has unraveled the pattern of her life in unraveling the paper, she has sacrificed her own personal identity. For, after her husband retrieves the key and opens the room, he sees his wife continuing her "creeping" on the floor:

"I've got out at last," said I, "in spite of you and Jane. And I've pulled off most of the paper, so you can't put me back!"

Now, the narrator perceives herself as the woman trapped behind the paper and her former being is "Jane."  As in her prescient remark, the woman has committed a suicide of her personality [Jane, which is her name] "plunging off at outrageous angles," and
destroyed her own identity in the "unheard of contradiction" of becoming the woman freed from the repressive patterns of Victorian womanhood.

The yellow wallpaper is, indeed, significant in the narrator's journey from repression to independence.  But, the cost has been "uncertain" and "at outrageous angles," so much so that the narrator is disassociated from her true self in a suicide of her mind that leaves her, like the house, "quite alone" and in "a separate house" from her husband and others.

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What symbolism is represented in "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

The yellow wallpaper becomes symbolic of the narrator's mental state as she progresses through the story. At first, she loathes it, just as she loathes her confinement and tries to suppress her anger at her husband, John, who is responsible for it. She tries to understand the wallpaper's design and describes the paper in such a way as to give us a clue to her intelligence.

Looked at in one way each breadth stands alone, the bloated curves and flourishes—a kind of “debased Romanesque” with delirium tremens—go waddling up and down in isolated columns of fatuity. But, on the other hand, they connect diagonally, and the sprawling outlines run off in great slanting waves of optic horror, like a lot of wallowing seaweeds in full chase.

The wallpaper begins to provide intellectual stimulation that she otherwise lacks, and so she begins to fixate on it and to think that she is growing fonder of her room and even more healthy, "because of the wallpaper." Eventually, she begins to imagine that a woman is trapped inside the wallpaper (as she, in many ways, is trapped within it), and she makes it her goal to free that woman.

Once she succeeds in tearing down the paper, thereby freeing the trapped woman, she loses all sense of her own identity and begins to think of herself as the now-freed woman who has come out of the wallpaper. Unable to obtain freedom for herself, she invents a fellow prisoner and then takes on her fictitious identity in order to obtain a kind of mental freedom. The wallpaper becomes the motif through which all this can transpire.

In terms of the meaning of the story, we see—through the narrator's experiences—the significant toll taken on a female patient when her concerns and ideas about her own health are not taken seriously. The narrator is not allowed to have any say in her own treatment, and her feelings are disregarded by her husband, her brother, and what seems to be the entire medical establishment; she is condescended to and infantilized rather than treated as an intelligent adult.

As a result, her mental health rapidly declines, and she ends up far more ill than she was to begin with. Therefore, one of the main themes of this text is that the ailments of female patients must be taken seriously and that their ideas should not be discounted when it comes to their treatment.

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What is the significance of the color yellow in "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

The Yellow Wallpaper is a classic gothic horror story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and mainly concerns the slow progress of mental illness.

The protagonist, who is never named, is suffering from post-partum depression upon the birth of a child, and is prescribed strict best-rest by a doctor. In the setting, this is considered completely reasonable, and she is prohibited from any activity, even non-strenuous ones such as reading. With no other mental stimulation, she creates a trapped woman in the yellow wallpaper, eventually trapping herself in madness.

The yellow wallpaper is significant because yellow is often considered the color of sickness or malaise. Ancient medicine colored the "humors" of the body; the Choleric humor was yellow bile, representing fire, or a creative, passionate, unstable mentality. The protagonist is certainly unstable, and her creativity shows in her belief that the wallpaper hides a trapped woman (which is itself an unsubtle echo of her own imprisonment). She mentions the "smell" of yellow pervading the house, which brings to mind mold or mildew, which in an unventilated home could cause a fungal infection; even the thought of a "yellow smell" is repugnant. Finally, the symbolic association of cowardice with the color yellow could be a condemnation of the woman's refusal to fight against the oppressive patriarchal society which has imprisoned her, instead becoming "yellow" and retreating into madness and submission.

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What is the significance of haunting in "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

If one employs the one denotation of haunt, to intrude upon continually as an idea "haunts" a person's mind, then readers may certainly perceive the narrator of Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" as haunted by the sickening yellow paper on the walls of her confinement, a wallpaper that seems to take on expression and give perverse form to itself in its asymmetry.

This wallpaper, in its haunting presence for Gilman's narrator, seems "a strange, provoking, formless sort of figure, that seems to skulk about behind that sill and conspicuous front design."  To the narrator, therefore, the figure that she perceives--whether it be real or in her mind--assumes the characteristics of a veritable ghost as it becomes 

like a woman stooping down and creeping about behind that pattern.  I don't like it a bit.  I wonder--I begin to think--I wish John would take me away from here! 

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What is the significance of haunting in "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

I am sure other editors might disagree with me but I don't actually think this story has much to do with "haunting" in the traditional oh-no-there's-a-ghost-behind-you kind of way. The principle theme of this incredible short story is one woman's account of her own mental condition and how this spirals down and down until she reaches a point of complete insanity. We need to be aware of the way in which the female narrator is unreliable, and we need to see how she projects her feelings of despair, entrapment and anger in the curious yellow wallpaper in her room.

Note how as the narrative progresses she sees a woman in the wallpaper, who moves around and "shakes" the bars of the yellow wallpaper:

The front pattern does move--and no wonder! The woman behind shakes it!

...Then in the very bright spots she keeps still, and in the very shady spots she just takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard.

And she is all the time trying to climb through. But nobody could climb through that pattern--it strangles so; I think that is why it has so many heads.

What we come to realise is that this woman that she sees in the wallpaper is her own intellectual and emotional self that is "trapped" and "encaged." Although her husband means well and is following the orders of the doctor, she is not allowed to escape or to express herself, and thus she eventually gives in to insanity.

Thus whilst there is a supernatural presence in the wallpaper, we can identify that it represents the anger and rage of the narrator who is forced to lie in silence on a bed in this room, imprisoned and encaged just as surely as the woman that she sees raging so strongly against her captivity.

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In "The Yellow Wallpaper," what is the significance of the woman behind the yellow wallpaper?

In "The Yellow Wallpaper," the unnamed woman narrating the short story is virtually a prisoner in a small yellow room with horrendous yellow wallpaper. She is staying at this small summer house with her husband, newborn baby, and sister in an attempt to get some rest and recouperate from her post-partum depression. She is not allowed to see her baby, read, write, or do anything that may strain her, so out of boredom, she resorts to studying the hideous yellow wallpaper.

After weeks of meticulous observation, she starts to see eyes peering our from the paper, staring at her. She believes that the paper knows her better than anyone else. Finally, she sees the form of a woman hiding in the pattern. The narrator notices that the pattern is double, bars in front and an intricate display behind. The woman is behind the bars and is shaking them, trying to get out. Full of empathy, the narrator locks herself in the room and desperately tries to get the woman out by ripping the paper.

Because the woman in the yellow paper is trapped and alone, she symbolizes the narrator in her incarceration. Both women are trying to escape their "jail" unsuccessfully. The woman in the wallpaper is behind bars, unable to be heard. The narrator's prison is both physical and intellectual, as her husband controls her actions and words. He undermines her in every way and trivializes her fears and desires.

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What is the historical significance of "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

In 1913 Charlotte Perkins Gilman published, "Why I Wrote 'The Yellow Wallpaper,'" explaining that she herself had suffered for years from nervous problems that led to melancholia. After she had suffered for three years, she went to a noted specialist in nervous diseases who prescribed the "rest cure." Since she was physically healthy, her body responded to the rest and she was sent home with instructions to "live as domestic a life as possible" and to only have two hours of "intelligent life" a day.

Ms. Gilman embraced the new feminist movement that supported more independence and broader roles outside the home, roles that could exercise a woman's spirit and give her increased, not less "iintelligent life." Very avant-garde, Mis Gilman believed that women should be financially independent from men; she even promoted the idea that men and women should share domestic work--a most radical concept for the late 1800s. Her story, a testimony to her beliefs, caused some social furor at the time that it was published.

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What is the historical significance of "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

Charlotte Perkins Gilman's famous story, "The Yellow Wallpaper," is quite reflective of the time in which it was written. The protagonist is cloistered in a room that she abhors. She longs to go outside, yet she is forced to remain inside because of her suppossed declining health. There is evidence in the story that it is her imprisonment that causes her sickness, though her husband does not allow her to see it. These details paint a picture all too common of the era that Gilman lived in - women who were expected to answer to their husbands, regardless of how intelligent or unhappy they may be. This story helped to pull the veil back on this kind of treatment toward women.

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What are the implications of the conclusion of "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

I am sure I am not alone in finding the ending of this excellent tale to be rather disturbing in the way it represents a compelete abandonment to the madness and lunacy that we see the narrator has been sliding towards throughout the story. The way that the narrator explicitly identifies herself as the woman that she has seen trapped behind the "bars" of the yellow wallpaper is made clear by her action of circling the room, following the wallpaper round and round. She, just like the woman she has seen behind the wallpaper, is trapped inside the endless maze of her own lunacy, and even the presence of her husband's body in the way of her course does not impede her movements. Note what she says to her husband and how she responds to his fainting:

"I've got out at last," said I, "in spite of you and Jane! And I've pulled off most of the paper, so you can't put me back!"

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!

The narrator's lack of self-awareness and empathy is shown by her questioning why her husband should have fainted. What to her makes perfect sense is only greeted by horror and stunned amazement by her husband as he faints. The move of the narrator from being sane to insane is complete, and is marked by the narrator becoming the woman behind the wallpaper that she has imagined throughout the story.

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What symbolism is represented in "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

The value in this short story is that it interprets Silas Weir Mitchell's rest cure treatment for postpartum depression and other "nervous" disorders from the point of view of a woman who was actually subjected to it.

Mitchell was a real person and his theories on dealing with patients suffering from what we would today call mental illness were widely influential in the real world at around the turn of the century and for some decades beyond. For example, Virginia Woolf was subjected to the rest cure treatment when she had nervous breakdowns.

Woolf critiques this form of treatment in her novel Mrs. Dalloway, when shell-shocked Septimus Smith commits suicide rather than be subjected to a rest cure in an institution. Gilman also critiques this treatment, which deprived patients of any intellectual outlets or interests, as a cruel punishment that only made any depression or mental illness worse.

Gilman shows the narrator disintegrating and becoming more profoundly mentally ill under this "cure" than she was before it started. Women's voices about what they need should be heard, not ignored by men trying to determine what is "best" for them without their input. Gilman's story is important because it provides a compelling and persuasive critique of the horror of mental health care in her period.

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What symbolism is represented in "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

'The Yellow Wallpaper' is an important and valuable text in several ways. It deals with important issues - the treatment of women and mental illness in society, based upon Gilman's own experience of post-natal depression - and it does so in a striking manner, employing the style of psychological horror. Indeed, this approach led it initially to be regarded as little more than horror in the tradition of Edgar Allan Poe, but subsequently it has come to be recognised as a seminal social and feminist text in its depiction of a woman whose mental breakdown is worsened by the medical treatment foisted upon her by her male carers.

In the time in which the story was written, women were often diagnosed vaguely with hysteria and condemned to a rest-cure which, as Gilman knew from her own experiences, often worsened the problem. Confined to her bed, forbidden to do anything so taxing as writing - something she herself realises would be therapeutic for her - the narrator almost literally goes out of her mind with boredom.

As this character narrates her own story, she is able to directly communicate her thoughts and feelings to the reader, in a style that is at once monotonous and agitated. We, as readers, are able to sympathise directly with her, and that makes us more involved in the story and the issues that it raises.

The story also makes effective use of imagery with the yellow wallpaper which becomes a sinister symbol of the narrator's mental problems and her feeling of entrapment:

The colour is repellant, almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight. It is a dull yet lurid orange in some places, a sickly sulphur tint in others.

This grim description conveys the narrator's own sense of sickness, and even hellishness, with the reference to the 'sulphur tint'. With the use of such sophisticated literary techniques, the story leaves a lasting impression on the reader. It deals with important social issues in a memorable way and that is its enduring value. 

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What symbolism is used in the story "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

The primary symbol in the story is, unsurprisingly, the wallpaper itself. The wallpaper starts out in the story as something slightly off or irksomely unappealing. It is perhaps due to this aspect of it that the narrator, already in a seemingly fragile mental state, fixates on it in her isolation and thinks of it as something that she must unravel and understand.

The pattern of the wallpaper is formless. Hour after hour, she puzzles over it, until she begins to see an illusory second pattern in the negative space—a pattern that she eventually recognizes as a woman that seems desperate to escape.

This is the true nature of the symbolism of the wallpaper. It represents the prison of family, societal conditioning, and culture that imprisons women who deviate from the norm even slightly. The prison has no concern for the narrator's actual well-being, only how suited she is for public appearance. It is because of this, perhaps, that the narrator feels compelled to tear it apart.

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What symbolism is used in the story "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

In "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman symbolism permeates the atmosphere, setting, and even the mood of the main character, mainly due to the fact that the woman has no other option but to transfer her disparate thoughts and emotions onto objects. This is, perhaps, the only way that she can make sense of her current situation. 

It is arguable that the first symbol that we see is the isolated estate to which she is taken. A big house separated from the rest of civilization, basically, is symbolic of how her own issue, as big as it is, has been just removed to a separate place- but has not been resolved. 

The central symbol, which is the yellow wallpaper, is described under a very negative light

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.

Here we already see the first signs of how the woman personifies the patterns on the paper in a way that reflects her own state of mind. Words such as "uncertain", "destroy", "suicide", "contradictions", are present in her subconscious, and the paper is slowly leading her to open up to her true emotions. 

Then, there is the color. Although the actual color yellow may or may not have a specific meaning, we could argue that in different types of literature it has meant different things. We could say that it is the color of cowardice, or the color of the "cheap" (as in the 1890's coined term "yellow press", or "dime a dozen"). One thing is for sure: the paper is ugly. It makes her feel oppressed that this is what is important about it.

The color is repellent, almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight.It is a dull yet lurid orange in some places, a sickly sulphur tint in others.

Here we see more words: sulphur (related to the smell of evil), "revolting", "unclean" and, most importantly, "dull". Such are her emotions regarding the paper which, again, is nothing but a transference of emotions from her mind onto objects.

The slow progression of her depression will end up in her tearing up the yellow wallpaper in order to liberate the woman who she believes is trapped behind. Obviously, this is another clear reference to her own situation, where she has been removed from a comfort zone and placed in what is nothing short of an experimental room; all in aims to calm her nerves after giving birth. Hence, the paper is the biggest symbolism in the story because it literally mirrors her state of mind. 

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What is the significance of the title "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

I had to modify the original question, but think I was able to preserve its original intent.  The focus of the yellow wallpaper in the story has several specific purposes.  I think that the most pressing of them is that the woman's construction of what is happening in the yellow wallpaper as she studies it from her bed of confinement is the only freedom she is allowed.  She is not allowed to maintain a journal, leave the bedroom, express what she is feeling, or do anything of the sort.  In the end, all she can do is study the wallpaper.  Through this analysis, she projects her own condition of being trapped and subjugated on the designs in the wallpaper.  The importance is to reflect the theme of the role of women and social forms of subjugation that is a part of the experience of being a woman in society.  In showing how the narrator is able to construct and transfer her own reality upon that of the wallpaper, it brings to light that women's voices will have to be heard.  On some level, either society will create forums where this voice can be expressed properly and with a sense of productivity and construction or it will be expressed in a destructive manner.  The story seems to be suggesting that society must make the choice as to how to approach the experience of women in the modern setting.

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What is the significance of the title "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

I believe the main reason the story "The Yellow Walllpaper" is called "The Yellow Wallpaper" is because the story describes a woman suffering from post-partum depression and having a serious breakdown, and she is mostly confined in a room where the wallpaper is a hideous yellow pattern. The woman begins to see the paper as a prison with a woman hidden in the pattern trying to get out. The author, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, describes the color of the paper in great detail, even including that the color comes off onto the narrators clothes when she brushes too close to it. Since the wallpaper is so significant it seems like a separate character, it is understandable that Gilman would point that out in the story's title.

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What is the main idea of "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

In the short story "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the narrator is brought to a colonial mansion by her husband, John, for a rest cure. John is a physician, and he believes that isolation and a surcease from domestic activities will help his wife get over her "nervous depression" and "slight hysterical tendency." He relegates her to an upstairs room with garish yellow wallpaper. As the story progresses, the woman becomes more and more obsessed with the paper and convinced that there is a woman trapped behind it. In the end, it appears that she has gone insane: she imagines that she has "freed" the woman from behind the wallpaper and, simultaneously, that she is that woman.

The story has been subject to various interpretations over the years since it was first published. According to Gilman, the main idea of the story is that the woman is being mistreated in her isolation and lack of activity. Gilman wanted to protest this form of treatment, which was common for women at the time. Instead of doing nothing, the woman should have increased her activities or had her own freedom to choose how to spend her time.

Gilman was writing from experience. She herself suffered from melancholy and a nervous breakdown, and a renowned doctor who specialized in nervous diseases prescribed bed rest and a complete absence of artistic activity. After three months of getting worse, Gilman defied the doctor's orders and resumed work. She wrote "The Yellow Wallpaper" to show how wrong it was to treat women as she was treated. She later found a female doctor, Mary Putnam Jacobi, who prescribed increased mental and physical activity for women suffering from depression. In an article explaining why she had written "The Yellow Wallpaper," Gilman writes,

It was not intended to drive people crazy, but to save people from being driven crazy, and it worked.

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What is the main idea of "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

The main idea of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's 1892 short story "The Yellow Wallpaper" is the subordination of women to men and the dehumanizing treatment historically suffered by the former at the hands of the latter. Early in Gilman's story, which is told in the first person, the narrator laments the inability or unwillingness of her physician husband to respect and understand her condition:

John is a physician, and perhaps—(I would not say it to a living soul, of course, but this is dead paper and a great relief to my mind)—perhaps that is one reason I do not get well faster. You see, he does not believe I am sick!

Women in most cultures or societies have been treated as intellectually as well as physically inferior, and their roles in society had, for many centuries, been limited by these prejudices. Gilman's protagonist is condemned by virtue of her gender to remain a virtual prisoner in her own home, the gradual deterioration of her mental state being a direct result of the frustrations she endures. When she finally breaks and tears emotionally at the wallpaper lining her room, it is a futile effort at freeing herself from confinement that, the reader can be assured, would not exist were the character a male.

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What is the main idea of "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

At heart, "The Yellow Wallpaper" is a critique of women's position in nineteenth-century society. The narrator of the story suffers from what seems like post-partum depression, and she is forced by her husband and her doctor to take the traditional "rest cure" for all female ailments. This nameless woman is forbidden to read, write, or leave her room, and her thoughts begin to prey upon her.

This character's helplessness illustrates how powerless women were during this time in history. The woman has no money of her own, no social identity beyond being her husband's wife, and no control over her own actions. While Gilman's original audience tended to view the piece as merely a "horror story" about madness, it is regarded today as a landmark of feminist fiction.

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What is the narrative structure of "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

Narrative structure refers to how a text is organized. This story is structured chronologically, which means that it moves in order of time from the first event that is described by the narrator, moving into an "ancestral home" for the summer so that she can recuperate from some mental illness, to the last, when the narrator no longer recognizes her own identity and believes that she is the woman she has freed from her wallpaper. We could also say that the text's structure is epistolary. An epistolary text is composed entirely of writings—often letters or diary entries—and the narrator does tell us early on that she is writing her story on "dead paper" because she has no one to talk to about what is happening to her. She can write things that she does not dare say to her husband John. Later, she mentions that she has to "put this away" when her husband comes up the steps because he does not want her to work or write anything as part of her recovery. Then, two weeks go by, and she claims that she hasn't "felt like writing" since the day they moved into the house. Thus, we can ascertain that the entirety of the text is written in some form, and this qualifies it as an epistolary story.

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What is the style of "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

The literary style of "The Yellow Wallpaper" is that of the "unreliable narrator." The story is told from a first-person perspective, with only one point-of-view, and so there is no way of telling if the reader is getting the whole truth. Without a second point-of-view, or even a third-person narration style, the story can only be seen from one angle: the narrator, who is suffering first from post-partum depression and then from an increasingly severe mental breakdown.

This style is seen in many stories, from realistic crime fiction to fantasy and space opera. By re-reading the story with an understanding of the narrator's unreliability -- not dishonesty, but instead the inability to speak objectively -- the story can develop multiple meanings and interpretations. As "The Yellow Wallpaper" is deliberately a story about gender roles and cultural conventions, its interpretation usually remains the same regardless of the reading, but there could be a case made for the narrator's mental instability legitimately requiring her isolation, in another context. 

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What is the style of "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

Charlotte Perkins Gilman's short story "The Yellow Wallpaper" is told from a first person point of view narrative. This means that the unnamed main character serves as the narrator. However, since this narrator is slowly descending into a mental breakdown, we cannot venture to say that the story is objective, nor reliable: everything we know is told by a woman who is undergoing a series of terrible circumstances as a result of her post-partum depression. Yet, the story is effective in style, combining an allegorical title with a daring and challenging topic for treatment.

The title of the story is allegorical to the narrator's mind. The woman, who is supposed to be taking post-partum rest for her depression in a remote house, spends her day inside a room in which the wallpaper begins to annoy her. She believes that there is a woman trapped within the paper and she slowly increases her obsession with it. In the end, she tears up the paper and finally breaks down. This is a symbol of the magnitude of her desperation; of being trapped inside a room with no intellectual respite, and with no way of expressing her real needs and emotions.

Finally, "The Yellow Wallpaper" is unique in that it addresses a real issue which had not received enough attention (during Perkins Gilman's society), which is the psychological health of women. Women, in their socially-imposed roles of wives, mothers, and nurturers, were never analyzed under the light of psychology. If anything, a post-partum depression would have been classified as "hysteria" or plain "nostalgia". Little was known during this time about the effects of hormonal imbalance, or about the effects of childbirth in women; women were expected to give birth, no questions asked.

Hence, we can conclude that "The Yellow Wallpaper" is a story that breaks the mold in terms of the topic that it treats, and that it effectively tells the story of a woman in need by using her as first person narrator. This helps us look inside the mind of a woman about to break down, and teaches us how society has forgotten to address the true needs of females.

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What is the style of "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

Genre is never something that can be cleanly simplified to a single classification—a story or novel can and usually does fit multiple genres, all at the same time. "The Yellow Wallpaper" is no different.

First, I think it's safe to classify it as a work of epistolary fiction. Epistolary fiction is fiction which is told through a sequence of documents, usually produced by characters within the story (to give an example, one of the most famous works of epistolary fiction is Bram Stoker's Dracula). Given that "The Yellow Wallpaper" is told as a sequence of diary entries written by its main character, it qualifies as such.

In addition, given its thematic content, we can classify this short story as both a work of feminist literature and a work of psychological fiction. These are just a few examples of classifications which we can apply.

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What is the style of "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

When this story was first published, people weren't really sure how to interpret it, and many read it as a work of Gothic horror (with strange or supernatural happenings, scary settings, and dark characters). Most people did not understand that Gilman meant to criticize the medical establishment and the common practice of failing to take women's illnesses seriously or consult the patients themselves in their treatment. The doctor referenced in the text, Weir Mitchell, was a real-life doctor who created the "Rest Cure" for women who suffered from some nervous disorder or "hysteria." This was a sort of catch-all diagnosis for women with depression or other mental illnesses. In fact, Mitchell once treated Gilman for what we would now probably call post-partum depression, the same ailment from which the narrator of this story seems to suffer. Now that most readers are savvy enough to understand what Gilman was doing—she was certainly ahead of her time in terms of her feminist criticisms of society and medicine in general—we can more accurately term this work one of literary fiction.

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What is the style of "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

"The Yellow Wallpaper" could be classified as psychological fiction, social realism, short fiction, or women's literature.

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What is the literary style of "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

This story is a work of literary realism. Realist texts typically reflect the social and cultural practices and attitudes of the time period in which the piece is set. Diction ought to be natural rather than poetic or highly rhetorical. Events are plausible, though there is more emphasis on character than on action. Characters are rendered in rich and complex ways, and their relationship to their social class is typically of note.

We see these elements play out in the text. It was common during Gilman's time and during the era in which the story is set for women, especially post-partum (or after having a baby), to be diagnosed with "hysteria," a sort of catch-all term for any and all nervous or depressive ailments that affected women. The narrator actually references a real-life doctor, Weir Mitchell, who pioneered the rest cure for women—evidently the treatment the narrator is receiving—where a woman must have complete rest without any social or mental stimulation; this treatment was used to cure her of her hysteria. Ironically, the treatment meant to cure the narrator actually pushes her well-past the postpartum depression from which she probably suffers toward an actual psychotic break in which she no longer recognizes her own identity. The narrator's level of diction is somewhat higher than usual, but this seems designed to show us how clearly intelligent and imaginative she is because depriving her of stimulus seems all the more cruel. The narrator's husband has rented this "house" for the summer so as to hide her hysterical condition from friends and family: a good indication of her social class and the unacceptability of her illness.

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What is the literary style of "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

One literary style in "The Yellow Wallpaper" is the epistolary story. Written as the short diary of an unnamed woman, it can be seen as a recovered document, never meant for public eyes, or as a direct plea for help aimed at anyone who is willing to listen. Since it is written by only one narrator, it is a monologic epistolary story.

An epistolary story aims to feel more realistic and possible than a typical story. By allowing the reader into the private mind of the writer, directly seeing and understanding her innermost thoughts, "The Yellow Wallpaper" is able to show the slow deterioration of the narrator's mind with her own words, even if she doesn't directly realize it. Her story breaks off when her husband approaches, and does not include every little event, but only what is on her mind at the moment; in this fashion, the reader is given access to a "secret" account, something that her husband never sees.

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What is a one-sentence summary for "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman?

A good one-sentence summary of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story might read as follows:

“The Yellow Wallpaper” is a highly ironic story that takes us inside the mind and emotions of a woman suffering a slow mental breakdown – a breakdown paradoxically caused by attempts to restore her mental health.”

No summary, however, can do real justice to the rich complexity of Gilman’s tale itself, a tale brimming with irony from start to finish.  Among the numerous examples of irony the story reveals are the following:

  • The narrator refers to herself in the first sentence as an “ordinary” person, but it soon becomes clear that she is hardly ordinary in any way.
  • The narrator declares that there is “something queer” about the house in which she is now living – a description more applicable to herself than to the house.
  • John, the narrator’s husband, has “an intense horror of superstition,” but he will soon find himself trying to cope with an increasingly superstitious wife.
  • John apparently doesn’t believe that his wife is really sick, but of course by the end of the story her mental sickness will become undeniable.
  • Both the narrator’s husband and her brother are physicians, but neither is able to cure her of her true illness, which is mental rather than physical and which becomes worse the more they belittle her condition or try to cure it by superficial means.
  • The narrator takes drugs prescribed to her by her husband and brother, but she is forbidden to “work” – the one treatment that might actually have been effective.
  • John urges his wife not to think about her condition, thereby leading to her obsess about it in secret.
  • By declaring that she will cease talking about herself and will instead talk about the house, the narrator introduces the topic that will eventually drive her completely crazy.
  • The narrator acknowledges John’s genuine concern for her, but it is precisely the nature of that concern that leads to her growing mental illness:

He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction.
I have a schedule prescription for each hour in the day; he takes all care from me, and so I feel basely ungrateful not to value it more.

  • The narrator inhabits a nursery, but her symbolic treatment as a child only makes her mental condition worse than it already was.
  • The room the narrator inhabits was once associated with youth, with health, with freedom, and with vitality, but now it seems as much a prison as anything:

It is a big, airy room, the whole floor nearly, with windows that look all ways, and air and sunshine galore. It was nursery first and then playroom and gymnasium, I should judge; for the windows are barred for little children, and there are rings and things in the walls.

  • The wallpaper in the room is in deteriorating condition, as will also soon be true of the narrator’s mind.  Indeed, her obsession with the wallpaper will be one reason for her own mental deterioration.
  • Although John hates to have the narrator “write a word,” she sees writing as her only outlet and relief.
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What is a one-sentence summary for "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman?

In "The Yellow Wallpaper," Gilman explores and critiques women's subordination in patriarchal society. She focuses on her time period's ill-advised treatment of women's nervous disorders. In the story, the unnamed first-person protagonist suffers from postpartum depression after the birth of a child. The treatment insisted upon by her husband—based on the rest cures popularized by a real physician, Weir Mitchell—drives the protagonist into insanity rather than curing her.

The story illustrates how voiceless women often were in late nineteenth and early twentieth century society. When the narrator tries to express to her husband her acute needs for physical and mental stimulation, she is infantilized and ignored. She hasn't been allowed to value her own opinions enough to assert herself adequately, so she retreats into insanity.

The first-person narrative works effectively to convey the woman's claustrophobia and increased desperation to escape. The yellow wallpaper, with its bulbous swirls, becomes a symbol of the narrator's entrapment and descent into a madness. Eventually, the narrator begins to see an animal crawling around in the wallpaper and pulls strips of the paper off the wall to set it free. These images of animals and wallpaper stripping reflect the narrator's dehumanization and her attempts to liberate herself from a prison.

The story is famous as a scathing indictment of men not giving women a voice in determining their own needs.

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What is a one-sentence summary for "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman?

Published in 1891, “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman introduces the idea of post-partum depression. Although Gilman did not put a name to this illness, today’s physicians and psychiatrist do acknowledge this disease.  In 1903, the author wrote an explanation for why she wrote this story:

For many years I suffered from a severe and continuous nervous breakdown tending to melancholia--and beyond. I went to a noted specialist in nervous diseases, the best known in the country. He prescribed complete bed rest and isolation.

Other than the unnamed narrator, the character most important to the protagonist is her husband John.   Central to the story, John controls the narrator, John relates to his wife through his interpretation of the narrator’s illness; furthermore, he appears to love his wife, providing constant positive feedback.

In the beginning, the reader feels that John places in wife in a situation which leads to her loss of control. As the story progresses, it is obvious that John simply cannot see what is happening to his wife.  He is gone much of the time, and he actually believes that his regimen works with his wife. Ultimately, John treats her as a patient rather than his wife. 

Consequently, his treatment for his wife comes from the acknowledged cure for depression at this time.

  • Constant bed rest
  • Isolation
  • No disturbances

John often threatened his wife with going back into a sanitarium to recuperate. Because he was a busy doctor, John tended to leave the woman alone which added to her distress.

John says if I don't pick up faster he shall send me to Weir Mitchell. I cry at nothing, and cry most of the time.
Of course I don't when John is here, or anybody else, but when I am alone.

The unnamed narrator suffers from depression after the birth of her baby.  Succeeding in fooling her husband, the isolation and continued absence of the outside world leaves the woman only with her imagination. 

In time, her imagination begins to take over her entire being. Nothing is right for the narrator.  As the depression deepens, the woman’s senses begin to drive her to distraction. The smells, the sounds, the wallpaper—the intensity of the sensory world around begins to overtake her sanity. To further add to her horror, the narrator believes another woman lives within the wallpaper.

…she crawls around fast, and her crawling shakes it all over. Then in the very bright spots she keeps still, and in the shady spots she just takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard But nobody could climb through  that pattern—it strangles so; I think that is why it has so many heads.

Eventually, the narrator’s reality is the wallpaper, separating her from daily life.  Further and further into this fantasy and frustration, she beings to gnaw on the furniture.  The “woman” in the wallpaper symbolizes the narrator’s situation. In finding herself, she has shredded herself.   

The rest cure apparently does not work. The final scene portrays John as so shocked by the complete loss of sanity by his wife that he faints.  Where has he been when this disturbing interaction was happening with the wallpaper, the woman, and the furniture?  No longer is the wife suffering from depression; now is it madness
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What is the point-of-view of "The Yellow Wallpaper?"

"The Yellow Wallpaper" is written in a first-person point-of-view, with both present- and past-tenses. The narrator writes in present-tense, but recounts conversations and other events in past-tense; this is typical of epistolary writing, and the tense structure of the story has little to do with the themes.

The first-person narration, however, is vital to the story's impact. By showing the reader a narrator who is suffering deep emotional and mental problems, and who is therefore unreliable, the story becomes less about the factual events and more about the culture of the times. The narrator is essentially held captive against her will; the story becomes more of a prison account than a typical diary. Her slow mental breakdown is echoed in the writing, which becomes more and more fragmented as the narrator loses her sanity.

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What is the point-of-view of "The Yellow Wallpaper?"

When we think of point of view, there are normally three different types that are used in literature: omniscient third person, limited third person, and first person. Omniscient third person is distinguished by having a narrator that is not part of the action but is looking into the story and has has access to all of the characters' thoughts, feelings, motives and emotions. It is written by an impersonal narrator in the third person ('he,' 'she' and so on). The limited third person is again written in the third person but the difference is that the narrator tells the story from the point of view of one character only, having only access to this one character's thoughts and motives. Finally, first person point of view can be easily identified because the story is told to us by one of the characters in the story itself from their point of view, in the first person ('I,' 'we' and so on). Have a look at how this excellent story starts:

It is very seldom that mere ordinary people like John and myself secure ancestral halls for the summer.

A colonial mansion, a hereditary estate, I would say a haunted house, and reach the height of romantic felicity--but that would be asking too much of fate!

So, based on this example you can hopefully see that the point of view in 'The Yellow Wallpaper' is first person.

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What is the point-of-view of "The Yellow Wallpaper?"

This story is told from a first-person point of view, which makes it especially interesting.  The narrator is an unreliable one because of her mental state.  At the beginning of the story, she is submissive and complacent, accepting the treatment her husband has chosen for her.  By the end of the story, she is combative and indignant.  She says, after locking the door to the room, "I don't want to go out, and I don't want to have anybody come in, until John comes. I want to astonish him" (Enotes).

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What is the point-of-view of "The Yellow Wallpaper?"

The story is told from the point of view of the unnamed protagonist in the first person. She tells the story from the confines of a closed room, where she is taking the "rest cure" for depression. As the story progresses, the woman gets more and more desperate, and her story becomes stranger and stranger. By the end, she sees "creeping women" within the intricate yellow wallpaper.

Because the woman's perspective is distorted by her confinement and her depression, she is also what is known as an unreliable narrator.

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What is the point-of-view of "The Yellow Wallpaper?"

Charlotte Perkins Gillman's story "The Yellow Wallpaper" was published in 1892 as an indictment of the medical treatment prescribed to women suffering from the condition that was know at the time as "neurasthenia," or "nervous prostration"; a condition that is now termed post-partum depression; a form of depression which results from the hormonal changes that new mothers suffer. The cure proscribed in the late 1900s was complete bed rest with no stimulation, a cure initiated by Dr. Weir Mitchell. This story of Gillman is autobiographical and intended to expose the inherent cruelties and errors of this approach to this female depression. For, this treatment of depressive women strips them of any say in their cure; moreover it deprives them of any sensory stimulation or human company, the most basic of human needs.

Gillman's narrator is the unnamed, repressed wife of John, who himself is a physician. He has called upon Dr. Mitchell to prescribe a cure for his "nervous" wife after the birth of their baby. At first, the narrator disagrees with the ideas of her husband and Dr. Mitchell, but expresses her helplessness against these men, "But what is one to do?" Instinctively, she knows what will help her overcome her "blues," but because of her repressed social position, she acquiesces to her domineering husband's judgment:

I sometimes fancy that in my condition if I had less opposition and more society and stimulus--but John says the very worst thing I can do is think about my condition, and I confess it always makes me feel bad. 

Further, from his words to her it becomes apparent that the husband places more and more stress upon the depressed woman. For instance, whenever she says something, he contradicts her and mitigates the significance of her feelings and observations: 

...there is something strange about the house--I can feel it.
I even said so to John one moonlight evening, but he said what I felt was a draught, and shut the window.
I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes. I'm sure I never used to be so sensitive, I think it is due to this nervous condition.
But John says if I feel so I shall neglect proper self-control; so I take pains to control myself--before him, at least, and that makes me very tired.

As the narrative proceeds in this vein, the reader's sympathies are drawn to this repressed, victimized woman, who is merely trying to find her own voice in a patriarchal society, a mother who is denied the company of her baby and deprived of any aesthetic pleasures other than the view out of windows of "riotous old-fashioned flowers and gnarly trees," or the sight of a bay and a little, private wharf." While she would like to write, John tells her that doing so would "lead to all manner of excited fancies."

I think sometimes that If I were only well enough to write a little it would relieve the press of ideas and rest me.

Thus, with her creative impulses, which still try to save her, repressed, the narrator's imagination takes a "wrong turn" and she begins her descent into insanity as she separates her inner self from the exterior, perceiving "a strange, provoking, formless sort of figure" behind the hideous pattern of the yellow wallpaper of the room in which she is confined:"The faint figure behind seemed to shake the pattern, just as if she wanted to get out." In her desperation, she still begs her husband to take her away. He refuses again, saying that the lease will be up in three weeks, and they can go no sooner.

Bereft of any hope of escape from the hideous room, the narrator begins to become unraveled. In a strange turn of her psyche, she decides that she now does not want to leave the room until she learns the secrets of the wallpaper, its smell, its pattern, and the woman who hides behind it, a woman she wants to be the only one to release--and tie her. To the reader, then, the narrator becomes a tragic character destroyed by the myopic visions of a charlatan and a compliant husband, whereas earlier in the narrative she has been a sympathetic character who could have been saved.

The husband John, at first perceived by the reader as unsympathetic, has now become oppressive as the dictatorial and constraining force of patriarchy--clearly responsible for the narrator's descent into insanity.

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What are notable quotes from "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

In "The Yellow Wallpaper", two important quotes are: 

Quote 1:  “The front pattern DOES move - and no wonder! The woman behind shakes it!” “Sometimes I think there are a great many women behind, and sometimes only one, and she crawls around fast, and her crawling shakes it all over.”

This quote ties into one of the major themes, which is the role of women in the 19th century.  The woman or the women that the unnamed narrator sees trapped behind the wallpaper is symbolic of the women during this time period who felt trapped as they were economically and socially dependent upon men. This quote is also indicative of the unnamed narrator's mental illness, as she is seeing women behind the wall paper.

Quote #2  “I am glad my case is not serious! But these nervous troubles are dreadfully depressing. John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no reason to suffer, and that satisfies him.”

This quote ties into the theme of mental illness and male dominance. It shows how the John ( a doctor and a male) dismissed her mental illness as “nervous troubles.”  (This was often the case during this time period as women’s mental illnesses were perceived as “a case of nerves.”)It is also ironic that the narrator says that her case is “not serious”, when actually this story shows the stages of a mental nervous breakdown. 

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What does a psychological reading reveal about "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

Most scholars agree that "The Yellow Wallpaper" is a thrilling psychological story. 

It becomes clear over the course of the story that the unnamed woman is suffering from Postpartum Depression, which is a condition that sometimes occurs in women after they've had a baby. Symptoms, according to Mayo Clinic, include excessive crying, fatigue, depression, irritability, decreased appetite, and anxiety. If left untreated, postpartum depression can turn into Postpartum Psychosis, in which the woman experiences hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, confusion and disorientation. By the end of "The Yellow Wallpaper," it's clear that the woman has gone mad, and her hallucinations of a woman trapped inside her wallpaper prove it. 

A psychological reading of "The Yellow Wallpaper" might suggest that the woman's captivity led her to madness. Physically, mentally, and emotionally, the woman is confined. Her husband, a doctor, orders her to be kept upstairs in a room with barred windows. He belittles her, treats her like a child, and also prevents her from expressing herself creatively through her journal by forbidding her to write. He expressly tells her not to give in to her emotions or fancies. Even the author creates an effect of captivity for the woman by leaving her unnamed throughout the story - her lack of identity could also be a contributing factor to her madness.

Many psychological readings are also tied to feminist readings of the story, as the woman's gender undoubtedly contributes to her treatment as a captive of her own home. 

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