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

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The point of view of "The Yellow Wallpaper" is first-person subjective. This gives us a privileged insight into the consciousness and thought-processes of the main character. The story concerns what's going on inside her mind, so this is the appropriate point of view to use.

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Had the story been told from a third-person omniscient viewpoint, a God's-eye perspective, if you like, then it wouldn't have been nearly as effective. T,hen the unnamed woman in the story would've been treated like an object of study. She would've been seen the same way as her husband, a doctor, sees her: as a patient.

It would've been much harder, therefore, for us to understand what was happening to her, what kind of experiences she was having, and what she was seeing in the yellow wallpaper. Readers would've been presented with a one-dimensional character, a stereotyped madwoman, which would have been at odds with the author's intentions.

As it is, the first person subjective viewpoint helps us gain a degree of empathy with the narrator. We share her frustrations at not being able to lead a normal life due to the dubious course of treatment being administered by her husband. We're also able to gain a better understanding of just how it is possible for her to see a character in the yellow wallpaper that stands as a symbol of her present condition.

From a feminist standpoint, the first person subjective viewpoint is crucial to telling the narrator's story. Otherwise, her story would be told by men, almost certainly in an unsympathetic light. The doctor's wife would be easily dismissed as just another madwoman, someone whose story doesn't need to be told.

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The story "The Yellow Wallpaper" is told from the point-of-view of a first person narrator, an unnamed woman who is being kept in a large upstairs bedroom as a cure for what appears to be postpartum depression. She is said to be suffering from a nervous disorder.

We know we are encountering a first-person narrative from the first line, in which the narrator refers to "myself."

The first person narration creates a sense of immediacy and intimacy: we are privy to the direct thoughts of the narrator. Further, she appears to be taking us into her confidence and trying to get us to side with her against her husband John (although she claims she is simply writing to her "dead paper"). For example, she notes that John and her brother are doctors, but that "personally" she does not agree with their diagnosis as to how her condition should be treated. This draws us into her world and causes us to also question her treatment.

This first-person narration is also highly subjective, especially as there is no authorial voice or omniscient narrator to correct her misconceptions for us. However, her evident increasing separation from reality and rationality reinforce the idea that her condition is not being treated correctly.

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The point of view in which this powerful short story is told is the first-person subjective. The phrase first-person means that the narrator uses the first-person pronoun "I" and is a participant in the events taking place in the story. The word subjective means that the narrator is telling us about these events as they are taking place, as she is living them, and not afterward; a big clue to this is that her verbs are in the present (rather than past) tense. She says that her husband, "John[,] laughs" at her and that he "is practical in the extreme." She talks about how she is feeling in the present, saying, "I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes," and the like. It is because of this perspective that the audience must piece together the evidence of the narrator's mental deterioration throughout the story. She feels that she's being quite reasonable in many respects and presents her ideas about the wallpaper as though they are typical rather than strange (that there is a woman living behind the first layer of the design, etc). The narrator becomes quite unreliable, adding to the tension and sense of menacing unease created by the story.

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What is the moral of the story "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

Gilman wrote "The Yellow Wallpaper" to protest a rest treatment she was subjected to for a temporary depression similar to the one the narrator of her story suffers. As with her story's protagonist, Gilman's treatment was based on the work of Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, an influential physician of the period who believed that psychological disorders in women derived from women taking on "male" work.

Like her story's narrator, Gilman was forced to give up writing and any other creative or intellectual endeavors as a depression cure. This enforced mental idleness, which, as in the story, led to Gilman's depression getting worse, not better. Gilman, however, was able to stop her treatment before she had a psychotic break.

In the story, Gilman envisions what would have happened had she not been able to escape her rest cure. Her narrator ends up having a complete breakdown brought on by inactivity and isolation. She images there is a woman trapped inside the yellow wallpaper in her room, so she rips as much of the wallpaper off the wall as she can to free her. At story's end, the narrator has lost touch with reality and is crawling around the room with her shoulder pressed against the wall.

Gilman sent the story to Mitchell, hoping he might change his methods. He did not, but the story has lasted as an important protest against not letting women have a voice in the treatment of their own mental illnesses. The moral of the story is that women need both mental stimulation and to be treated seriously as intelligent adults when they critique their treatments.

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What is the conflict in the short story "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

There are a couple of different types of conflict going on in the story. I believe that the primary conflict is Man vs. Society. The protagonist is living in a society (and further, a home) where she is not treated as an individual. She is controlled by both her brother and her husband as they attempt to do what they believe is best for her as a sick woman. They do this without any real consideration paid to what she wants. They force her to accept the idea that her own thoughts do not represent reality and that the only opinions that can be trusted are those of the men who are caring for her, regardless of what she wants or how she feels. TheMan vs. Self conflct stems from the Man vs. Society conflict. As society is telling her that she is crazy, cannot trust her own thoughts, and must give complete control in her life over to the men, she struggles to maintain her sanity and determine for herself what is real. She becomes increasingly aware of her powerlessness and, as she tries to repress this newfound awareness, she descends further.

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What is the conflict in the short story "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

The main conflict could be classified as "Man vs. Himself", if you were to use common terms. The main character struggles with herself, although the conflict is not referred to directly; her struggle is with her descent into madness. It is important to note, however, that there are other conflicts in the story that contribute to the main conflict, such as the main character's struggle with her husband and others she finds controlling and her conflict with her environment.

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What's the message of "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

There are at least a couple of equally important messages in "The Yellow Wallpaper," but one key takeaway is that women deserve a voice in their marriages and particularly in matters involving their own health.

The narrator of this story most likely suffers from postpartum depression (which likely evolves into psychosis). Early in the story, we learn that her husband does not believe she is sick, and her brother agrees that she simply has a "temporary nervous depression." Her opinions trivialized by the men in her life, the narrator submits to their phosphates and tonics and is "forbidden" to work until she is better.

She doesn't believe this is the right path to healing. In fact, she states,

Personally, I disagree with their ideas.

Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good.

The men don't listen, and she is locked away in the top floor of her home in nearly solitary confinement. From her windows, she observes the natural beauty her soul craves. Yet her husband again disagrees with her longing to return to the peace outside her house:

John has cautioned me not to give way to fancy in the least. He says that with my imaginative power and habit of story-making, a nervous weakness like mine is sure to lead to all manner of excited fancies, and that I ought to use my will and good sense to check the tendency. So I try.

Meeting dismissal at every turn, the narrator longs to write. She believes that if she could simply turn to writing, it would "relieve the press of ideas" which rise within her. And again, her husband forbids it.

The narrator thus spirals into a mental decline. Because John believes himself more capable than his wife of assessing and treating her health concerns, the narrator's sense of entrapment destroys her mental faculties. Denied a voice, the narrator begins fixating on freeing an imagined woman living in the wallpaper of her room, which is seemingly her only means of exerting some control in her own life.

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What is the central theme or the main theme of "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

The primary theme of "The Yellow Wallpaper" is that women who are suffering from post-partum depression, or any kind of depression, should be respected and allowed to make decisions regarding their own lifestyle and health. The rapid decline that Jane experiences under her husband's care and watchfulness and "the rest cure" could have been prevented if John had listened to Jane's desires. Jane wants to write, which would have certainly been a healthy pursuit for her if she had been allowed to do it openly. If others had taken an interest in her writing, that would have boosted her self-esteem. Perhaps she could have written about the sadness she felt, and getting it down on paper in a way that she could share with others might have been a tonic for her. Only being able to write on the sly turns her legitimate desire to express herself inward, exacerbating her dark thoughts.

Jane also expresses the desire to go visiting, but her husband squashes the idea, assuming it would be too hard on her. Seeing friends could have done wonders for her psychological state, but John is perhaps too embarrassed that his wife is suffering from a "nervous" condition to allow her to appear in public and possibly damage his reputation as a physician.

Jane's original complaints about her environment should have been heeded, as well. She did not seem to be in favor of the move to the country house, and she detested the wallpaper. Surely a small investment in making the room cheerful and attractive was not too much to ask, yet her requests for changes in living arrangements were consistently ignored. 

John generally treats Jane with a lack of respect. When she tries to express herself, he often laughs at her or cuts her off. He manages to do this in a way that seems kind, making his control over her all the more egregious because she feels ungrateful for balking at his rules. Having a husband and doctor who respected her as a complete person, not as some childish half-wit, could have spared her the plunge into insanity that she experiences at the end of the story. 

Often authors leave it to readers to determine the themes of their stories. In the case of this story, however, we are blessed with a specific explanation from Charlotte Perkins Gilman of her purpose in writing the story. You can see her explanation at the link below. Ms. Gilman suffered from "melancholia" herself and was prescribed the rest cure; she knew first-hand how destructive it was. She wrote the story as a way to encourage doctors to stop prescribing it and to bring attention to its dangers. She was able to return to a normal state of mind because a "wise friend" respected her and helped her pursue her own instincts about what she needed to do. Gilman left a powerful illustration of how important it is for women to be respected. 

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What does the ending of the story "The Yellow Wallpaper" suggest about the woman behind the wallpaper?

On a feminist reading, one could say that the ending of the story suggests that the unnamed narrator has so identified with the struggling woman behind the wallpaper that she has come to identify herself with the condition of women as a whole.

The woman in the wallpaper, desperately trying to escape from the bars that imprison her, represents the plight of women in a patriarchal society. The unnamed narrator, patronized and belittled by her husband and confined to a small bedroom, has come to identify with the struggle of her sisters as they are stifled and constrained in their daily lives by the patriarchy.

But as the narrator lives at a time when there is no real outlet for respectable middle-class women to express their frustrations, she goes out of her mind, blurring the distinction between herself and the woman in the yellow wallpaper. Indeed, in some respects, the woman in the wallpaper is the narrator, albeit a projection of her tortured psyche.

The narrator's terrible realization that she too is trapped brings home to her just how hollow her existence is. Ordinarily, this would be bad enough. But because she has nowhere else to go, she cannot escape from this terrible condition except by descending into madness.

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What does the ending of the story "The Yellow Wallpaper" suggest about the woman behind the wallpaper?

At the end of the story, John manages to finally open the door to the upstairs room and discovers that his mentally unstable wife is crawling on the floor in a creepy, unrecognizable manner. Before John faints, his wife says,

I've got out at last...in spite of you and Jane! And I've pulled off most of the paper, so you can't put me back! (Gilman, 10).

The narrator's comments and odd behavior suggest that the woman behind the yellow wallpaper was a reflection of herself. The woman behind the yellow wallpaper represents the narrator's repressed life and is a manifestation of her mental illness, which is a result of her postpartum depression and the "rest cure" that her husband subscribes to. Throughout the story, the narrator slowly descends into madness as she struggles to exercise her personal agency under her husband's oppressive control. John refuses to allow his wife to write, exercise, or socialize with others while insisting that she remain cooped up in the upstairs room. She begins seeing the image of a woman imprisoned in the wallpaper, which turns out to be an accurate reflection of herself.

Similar to the woman behind the wallpaper, the narrator cannot escape the upper room, lacks control over her life, and cannot express her individuality. By the end of the story, the narrator has completely lost touch with reality and has descended into madness. Her mental insanity is directly related to her suppressed feelings, lack of independence, and the unhealthy "rest cure" treatment, which has enhanced her isolation and significantly contributed to her depression.

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What does the ending of the story "The Yellow Wallpaper" suggest about the woman behind the wallpaper?

The woman in the wallpaper is the narrator.  This notion is revealed at the end of the story and it explains the role of women during the time period.  The narrator feels like her identity is slipping away and, like the woman, she will fade away into the wallpaper.  The entire story builds up to the moment when this idea is revealed.  The irony is that those in the story who need to understand, like the husband and sister, do not.  The narrator tries to free herself from this dungeon by meticulously peeling off the wallpaper, but her efforts are viewed as madness instead of triumph.  Gilman beautifully structures the story so that the reader is privy to all sides; therefore, giving us the great opportunity to pull more from the story than the other characters.  It also gives us a slight glimpse into the life of Gilman herself.

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What does the ending of the story "The Yellow Wallpaper" suggest about the woman behind the wallpaper?

The woman behind the wallpaper emerges at the end of the story and is revealed as the narrator herself. Throughout the story, we have seen the narrator descend in to madness exacerbated by her solitary confinement. It is deeply ironic that her husband has fashioned this seeming prison for her based on his medical expertise, and is unconvinced of her mental decline.

If a physician of high standing, and one's own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression--a slight hysterical tendency--what is one to do?

It is her husband whose prostate form she walks over at the end of the story.

"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 woman behind the wallpaper has proved her existence in the mind of the narrator, and has therefore proved the narrator correct in the diagnosis of her own insanity.

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What does the ending of the story "The Yellow Wallpaper" suggest about the woman behind the wallpaper?

The ending of the short story, "The Yellow Wallpaper," suggests that the woman has, in her mind, become the woman in the wallpaper.  When she cannot fully remove the wallpaper from the wall and set her free, she becomes her and is thereby set free herself.

The narrator sees herself in an identical position as the woman in the wallpaper, anyway.  They are both trapped and imprisoned with no way of escape.  The narrator, throughout the story, projects her situation onto the wallpaper print, and becomes obsessed with setting the woman she perceives in the wallpaper free. 

When she cannot, she becomes her.  In her words:

I wonder if they [women outside of her room] all came out of that wallpaper as I did?

and

I suppose I shall have to get back behind the pattern when it comes night, and that is hard!

Having begun the narration with what we today call post-partum depression, the woman closes her story completely identifying herself with the woman in the wallpaper. 

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What is the author trying to convey about being human in "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

The narrator of the story, Jane, has been diagnosed with "nervous depression." Her husband, John, is also her physician and prescribes her a treatment plan in which she is confined to one room and must engage in little to no physical activity and work, including writing. The woman describes John's patronizing and controlling manner and how he disparages her illness. Jane writes in a journal in secret, expressing her belief that freedom, engaging activity, and work would benefit her.

These circumstances reflect the oppressive gender roles of the nineteenth century, in which women's lives are dictated by men. Jane wishes to advocate for her own health, while John belittles both her perspective and the illness she suffers from. Jane begins writing in an attempt to "relieve her mind," though this does not provide a solution to her confinement. Readers can follow the deterioration of her mental health throughout the story.

Jane fixates on the yellow wallpaper in her room and develops an obsessive urge to figure out its pattern. Jane begins to see the image of a woman "stooping down and creeping" behind the pattern, which resembles bars on a cage; this symbolizes her own state of mental and physical imprisonment. Each time John dismisses her concerns, Jane becomes more consumed in the wallpaper. Eventually Jane sees the woman in the wallpaper shaking the bars at night and moving around during the day. In an episode of psychosis, Jane tears and bites the wallpaper in order to free the woman inside. By the end of her narration, Jane has descended into insanity, seeing creeping women everywhere and convincing herself that she came out of the paper.

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What does the wallpaper represent in the story "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

The yellow wallpaper symbolizes the oppression that many women of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's generation felt under the institution of marriage. The historical context of "The Yellow Wallpaper" is the 1800's under the universal concept of the femme convert , which is the doctrine that states how women are their husband's property and to be used at the husband's whim. Moreover, women at that time lacked just about every human and civil right conceivable, often suffering in silence from neglect, abandonment, depression, unfinished business, and personal wishes for a different kind of life. Unfortunately for them marriage was the only conduit through which a woman would find any role within society. It represented being "somebody" and being finally able to run a household. Yet, this comes at a price if it involves losing your individuality.

The narrator is a woman of Gilman's generation. Throughout the story she explains how, as a result of her isolation, she has remained fixated upon the wallpaper that covers the room where she has been forced to stay as a result of what is indicated to be post partum depression.

Personally I disagree with their
ideas.

Personally I believe that congenial
work, with excitement and change,
would do me good.

But what is one to do?

Being that she is alone, already on a state of despair, and under-stimulated, she compensates in finding patterns within the paper. In a direct transference of her own pain, she begins to see women trapped within the paper much like she is trapped within a situation from which she cannot escape, given that the husband is the only one who could decide what to do with his wife. Hence, whether the cure works for her or not, as long as it is the decision of the husband, it will be accepted.

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What is the main conflict in "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

I'd say that the main conflict in this story is of the Character vs. Society variety. The main character is being treated by her doctor/husband for an apparent mental illness, likely postpartum depression (though they did not have that diagnosis then; they called it "hysteria"). His "treatment" is supported by many other doctors of his time, and it seems to consist of unadulterated and uninterrupted rest. The narrator is to have no mental stimulation whatsoever; she is not allowed to read or write, to interact socially with others, or even to think very much about anything. The treatment meant to cure her, ironically, drives her completely mad. Her husband is well within his legal rights as both a medical professional and a husband to subject her to what is, essentially, total involuntary confinement, because of his position as the head of household and his profession. He is merely acting on behalf of society, working to control his wife in a socially acceptable way. As a result, their conflict really represents the narrator's conflict with her entire society rather than just with her husband.

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What is the main conflict in "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

Oh, but there are so many great conflicts! Let's look at three of them distinctly - the idea of what's "main" really is going to have to come from you. 

Person vs. Society: In the Victorian era, when this short story is set, the understanding of mental illness was extremely limited. What is most likely, from the contextual clues given by the narration, is that the narrator is suffering from Postpartum Depression, or depression that specifically afflicts mothers who have recently given birth. They very often feel overwhelmed, unprepared, unattached to their infants, confused, irritated, detached, or any number of symptoms. However, at this point in time, PPD was not an available diagnosis. As a result, the narrator is prescribed the best possible option for the time: rest and solitude. Today, we know that this is the worst possible treatment for depression. However, for the time, it was the only treatment. The narrator is in conflict with the beliefs and practices of society. 

Person vs. Person: John, the narrator's husband, is a member of this same society. As a result, he believes that he is acting in his wife's best interest by keeping her safe (read: isolated). Any time she tries to explain herself or in some way disagree with him, her actions and statements can easily be attributed to her mental illness. The narrator is in conflict with the well-meaning actions of her suffocating husband

Person vs. Self: The narrator herself is suffering from a break in reality, most likely instituted by PPD and exacerbated by extreme isolation. As a result, she is struggling with the reality that her senses present to her, which she simultaneously recognizes as true and false. The narrator is in conflict with herself, whom she no longer can trust. 

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What is the central idea of “The Yellow Wallpaper”?

“The Yellow Wallpaper” is a short story written by American feminist writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman, originally published in The New England Magazine in January of 1892. It centers on a woman and her physician husband, who diagnoses her with “temporary nervous depression” after she gives birth to their child. Imprisoned in an upstairs nursery, she is forbidden to work or do anything else except regain her strength. Out of sheer tedium, however, she is soon beset with paranoid hallucinations concerning the room’s wallpaper.

Then I peeled off all the paper I could reach standing on the floor. It sticks horribly and the pattern just enjoys it! All those strangled heads and bulbous eyes and waddling fungus growths just shriek with derision!

At its core, “The Yellow Wallpaper” is about the oppressive framework that the field of medicine has historically utilized with regard to women. In the story, the protagonist’s husband diagnoses her as mentally ill because she has been experiencing emotions that were largely frowned upon in women at the time. Women were kept from expressing normal human emotions such as anger and melancholia and were kept docile and subjugated to domestic life. Indeed, the protagonist of “The Yellow Wallpaper” is not just confined to a physical space—she is also confined to a limited societal role. Her slow descent into madness is a condemnation of how women have historically been denied freedom and individual agency.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman herself suffered from a “rest cure” and claimed to have almost gone insane from it. Writing “The Yellow Wallpaper” was her way of protesting how women such as herself have been systematically oppressed and subjugated by treatment methods that have no real basis in science.

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What is the theme of "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

I would say that one can find several themes in Gilman's work.  One particular theme would be the validation of a woman's voice.  I think that the exploration of a woman's voice becomes a central theme or message in the story.  The fact that the narrator is within a predicament where she is not heard and where her voice is not validated is of vital importance to the overall meaning of the story.  This is seen when the husband cannot fully understand his wife's condition, forbidding her to go outside or to keep a diary.  The continued suppression of a woman's voice becomes a critical theme in the story and is part of the reason why it manifests itself in the creation of storylines within the wallpaper itself.  It is this need to have a voice heard, to be able to receive acknowledgement, and to experience validation at all possible costs that becomes a major theme of Gilman's work.

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What is the theme of "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

Stories tend to have multiple themes, and "The Yellow Wallpaper" is no exception. I would say that this short story largely revolves around two major themes which are intertwined together: it's an examination of mental illness, as well as a criticism of nineteenth century attitudes and assumptions about gender and the experiences facing women during this era.

Probably the most important relationship in this story is the relationship between its protagonist and her husband (experienced from the perspective of the wife). Over the course of the story, it becomes clear that John holds very little respect for her as an equal. This can be seen in the ways in which he dismisses her perspective of her own psychological experiences. This chauvinistic attitude leads to tragedy, as her mental state deteriorates across the course of the story.

Mental illness is the other key theme, and Gilman uses her first person, epistolary narrative to great effect examining it. The great strength of First Person Narration is that the reader is transported directly into the perspective of one of the characters. In writing this story as a series of journal entries, Gilman allows the readers themselves to see this mental deterioration unfold before their eyes. You can see this in effect in the way that the writing itself changes over time, becoming more manic and less restrained as the protagonist's condition worsens.

These two themes are very closely tied together. It's a feminist critique of the sexist attitudes of the nineteenth century, showing how these assumptions and expectations could prove mentally unhealthy and destructive to the women who faced them.

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What is the symbolism in "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

The most significant symbol in "The Yellow Wallpaper" is contained within the title itself. As the story progresses, the wallpaper becomes a symbol of the narrator's mental illness. She strongly dislikes the wallpaper upon moving to the house. Initially, it is just the abrasive color she objects to: “It is a dull yet lurid orange in some places, a sickly sulphur tint in others.” Her husband believes she is overreacting and, as such, decides not to replace the wallpaper:

At first he meant to repaper the room, but afterwards he said that I was letting it get the better of me, and that nothing was worse for a nervous patient than to give way to such fancies.

Evidently, her husband believes that if he gives way "to such fancies," it will be worse for her psychological state. However, as the narrator's mental health declines, she starts to vaguely see a "formless sort of figure" in the paper and becomes fixated on the wall:

it dwells in my mind so! . . . I lie here on this great immovable bed—it is nailed down, I believe—and follow that pattern about by the hour . . . It is like a woman stooping down and creeping about behind that pattern.

Note that this initially "formless figure" has begun to take on the clearer image of a woman. The narrator's description of the wallpaper contains personification, associating the human behaviors of "stooping down and creeping about" with the figure in the paper. The narrator's mental illness (specifically her hallucinations) and the atmosphere of horror established by the wallpaper are associated with Feminist Gothic literature. In fact, "The Yellow Wallpaper" is one of the most well-known stories associated with this genre.

As previously mentioned, the story details the narrator's worsening mental state in association with what she sees in the wallpaper. The eerie tone of the story is accentuated by her reflections, such as the following:

I think that woman gets out in the daytime! . . . I’ve seen her! I can see her out of every one of my windows! . . . I see her in that long shaded lane, creeping up and down. I see her in those dark green arbors, creeping all around the garden.

The woman's hallucinations are clearly escalating, as they are no longer limited to the wallpaper. The woman she sees in the wall is becoming more and more alive. Her mental instability becomes increasingly dire, culminating in the story's climax:

I got up and ran to help her. I pulled and she shook, I shook and she pulled, and before morning we had peeled off yards of that paper . . . "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 pull me back!"

In reference to the previous passage, it becomes clear that the woman the narrator sees in the wallpaper is a symbol representing herself. Just as the woman is confined within the wallpaper, the main character is trapped within the patriarchy, her mind, and her house.

Like the previous two symbols, the woman's home is associated with her mental illness. It is a symbol of her physical and mental confinement. Her fixation on the wallpaper and her declining psychological state are associated with the house and the treatment she is prescribed by her physician husband. Her husband believes that her leaving the house would be a detriment to her health. Adding to this is the fact that the room with the yellow wallpaper has barred windows: there are picturesque views outside the window, which taunt her as a reminder of her physical confinement.

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What is the story "The Yellow Wallpaper" about, and what is the theme?

This story is about a woman who has just had a baby, and she seems to be suffering from what we would call postpartum depression. However, this is not a diagnosis that existed in the late-nineteenth century; instead, she is diagnosed by her husband-doctor with a "temporary nervous depression—a slight hysterical tendency." Her husband and brother, also a doctor, believe that the speaker can get better as long as she rests and does no work: she is "absolutely forbidden to 'work' until [she is] well again." The speaker is given little to no ability to participate in conversations about her health or treatments, and "disagree[s] with their ideas," believing that "congenial work, with excitement and change, would do [her] good."

She feels that if she had "less opposition" and more opportunity to see people and do things that she enjoys—like writing—then she would improve more rapidly and she would begin to feel better. After months of being treated, it seems, with what was called the rest cure, a treatment invented by Weir Mitchell, the doctor to which the speaker refers at one point, she begins to lose her mind. Completely isolated and attempting to deal with her rational (but socially unacceptable) anger against her husband, she begins to imagine that a woman lives, captive, in her wallpaper, and she makes it her mission to free this woman. Once she succeeds in tearing all the paper off the walls, she suddenly believes that she is the wallpaper-woman, now free from her wallpaper prison. The theme of the story seems to be that patients ought to have a say in their own treatments, and their experience should be validated by their doctors rather than belittled or written off.

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Please summarize the short story "The Yellow Wallpaper."

“The Yellow Wallpaper” is a short story about a woman dealing with a mental breakdown.  As the story opens, we meet the unnamed narrator and learn that she and her husband John (along with their baby and John’s sister) are living in a beautiful summer home that they have rented.  John refers to the narrator as “sick” but believes she will recover from this “temporary” condition; to aid her recovery he refuses to let her see the baby or do any work.  Because he is a doctor, all the relatives accept his interpretation of events and allow him to control the narrator. He even forbids her to write, but she continues to work on her writing in secret, believing that it will help her.  However, the secrecy exhausts her.  With nothing else to do, she begins to trace the design in the ugly, peeling wallpaper.

Her husband continues to control her, insisting that she take a “rest cure” with Dr. Weir.  He refuses to give in to what he considers to be her “fancies” about the wallpaper.  With nothing to do (such as work or writing), and no control over her surroundings—even the choice of room—the narrator continues to obsess about the wallpaper, first seeing eyes in it that are looking at her and eventually seeing a figure in the wallpaper that she believes she must “free.”

Near the end of the story, the narrator pretends that her health has improved and that her spirits have improved—anything to get away from the house and avoid Dr. Weir’s “rest cure.”  She notices that the woman in the wallpaper is quiet during the day and more active at night, as is the narrator, and she worries that John and Jennie (her sister-in-law) will figure out the pattern in the wallpaper before she does.  Eventually, she locks herself inside the room and throws the key out the window.  She finds herself trapped, having become the woman she sees in the wallpaper.  John breaks down the door and enters to hear her state that she has “freed” the woman.  However, John faints as he sees his wife creeping around the room peeling off the wallpaper.  The story ends as the narrator continues to creep around the room.

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What is the prevalent theme of the story "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

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The prevalent theme in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's short story "The Yelllow Wallpaper" is the supression of the female role and expression. The way that this prevalent theme is treated is through the use of a situation that is unique to women- pregnancy and motherhood- and by making this situation turn into a problem for the main character. All this, simply because society is too ignorant to concede women like the narrator with the tools and resources that they need in order to fulfill the social expectations of nurturers and protectors that are bestowed upon them.

The unnamed narrator is going through what she describes as "nervous prostration"; the equivalent of what modern medicine would call "post-partum depression". Set in a historical time when medicine nor psychology were dedicated to the study of women, the woman's condition is treated in a near-barbaric way by isolating her, by depriving her of any mental stimulation, and by forcing her to submit to these rules "for her own sake".

As a result, the woman's sense of normalcy begins to dwindle between boredom, the recovery from pregnancy, hormones, and the lack of support that she is getting, overall. In the end, she starts "seeing things"; namely, the shape of a woman forming in the yellow wallpaper that begs to be liberated from her confined existence on the wall. This is an allegory to the narrator, herself.

   I kept on creeping just the same, but I looked at him over my shoulder.

    "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! "

"The Yellow Wallpaper" is a good study not only in human psychology, but also in women's history. The story is not set during ancient times, but during a time where a lot of scientific discoveries and new paradigms were beginning to surface. Unfortunately, women continued to be left behind during the late 19th century and it has taken a lot to get to the point where society is now in terms of scientific and psychological understanding. This is what makes the story worthy of further analysis and study.

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What is the prevalent theme of the story "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

There might not be one right answer to this question, but in my opinion, the major theme of this story is the subjugation, imprisonment, and disrepect of the female in marriage. Throughout the entire story, the wife's expressions of her feelings and needs are completely disregarded. Who is the woman in the wallpaper who is trying to escape? She stands for the female protagonist, but also for all women who are trapped in marriage.  If you look up the date of publication for this story, you will find that it was written long ago, and was quite ahead of its time in discussing this theme.  Is this an important theme in today's world?  What evidence is there to show that married women's lives have or have not improved?

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What are the primary themes of "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman?

Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote this story in 1892 after suffering from depression after the birth of her first child. A neurologist Dr. Weir Mitchell placed the author on his “ bed rest cure.”  She was not to work or do any kind of intellectual activity; furthermore,  she was to stay in bed most of the day.  After her treatment, Gilman wrote the story “The Yellow Wallpaper” to convince doctors not to use this kind of treatment.

The narrator of the story is the unnamed main character who is suffering from postpartum depression.  By the end of the story, the narrator is completely mentally ill, her focus on the grotesque wallpaper which the narrator believes comes alive.  Thinking that another woman is trapped in the wallpaper, the speaker works to set the woman free.

Repression of women

One theme centers on the repression of women in marriage.  In the late nineteenth century, women were tied to their husbands both financially, emotionally and sexually.  For the most part, women depended on their husbands for almost everything. 

The husband provided the finances and the woman was responsible for everything else in their domestic life.  The woman was responsible for taking care of the house, cleaning, cooking, and washing the clothes and linens.  In addition, the wife bore the children and then raised them usually without much input from the husband.  She was to be at the disposal of the man in every respect. 

If a woman suffered from depression, the doctors  would label her  as hysterical.  Usually the woman would be expected to rest in bed and then "buck up" and go on with her life.

The narrator in this story was under the care of her husband who was also a doctor.  He did not listen to his wife about her feelings or emotions.  Very little communication went on between them.

John, the narrator’s husband, was happy to tell his wife what he thought would pacify her; consequently, as she sank deeper into mental illness, John was completely unaware of her regression. In fact, he treats her much like a child. It was not until he finds her crawling around on the floor with the furniture gnawed on that he passes out as he views his wife’s condition.

Mental Illness

Mental illness is also a primary theme of the story.  The main character has no outlet to focus her time. Since she is already unstable, the narrator sinks deeper into her problems and holds back her rage. 

From the beginning of the time in the summer mansion until the time that her husband finds her in the full throes of insanity, the narrator has focused on the wallpaper in the bedroom. 

...no person touches this paper but Me--not alive! Then I peeled off the paper I could reach standing on the floor.  It sticks horribly and the pattern just enjoys it.  All those strangled heads and bulbous eyes and waddling fungu growths just shriek with derision.

Initially, the narrator perceives that the wallpaper is dirty and torn.  Later, the pattern begins to bother the speaker.  Her attempts to understand the pattern of the paper holds her fascination. 

Her next level of obsession stems from her seeing a woman who tries to escape the wallpaper pattern by crawling around in the wall.  She begins to see the paper as having bars like a cage,  and in the cage are the heads of women.  Each woman is choked as she tries to leave the cage.  The theme of the horrific wallpaper represents the world that has trapped the woman in an untenable position.

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What is the first main point of the story "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

In this story, we see how the narrator's health rather rapidly declines as a result of her husband's (who is a doctor) treatment of her mental illness.  He essentially confines her in a house that seems to be used as a sanatorium, prohibits her from working or meeting with other people, and takes away all means to read or write.  She is to have no mental stimulus whatsoever.  These conditions slowly drive her from an illness which is probably postpartum depression toward a total dissociative break in which she imagines that she is no longer herself, but rather a woman who has been trapped in the wallpaper of her room.  We see, then, that late 19th-century methods of treating "hysteria" are not only ineffectual, they sometimes make the illness worse.  I believe that this is one of the most significant points that Gilman wishes to make because the circumstances of the narrator's mental decline are so great that they are tantamount to tragedy: a young woman literally goes mad because her husband has imprisoned both her body, in the top floor of this house, and her mind, by banning her from any intellectual activities that once gave her pleasure and purpose.

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What is an analysis of "The Yellow Wallpaper"?

When analyzing "The Yellow Wallpaper," there are three important aspects to look consider first: characters, plot, and style. Let’s take each of these in turn.

In context, one should first understand that "The Yellow Wallpaper" is semi-autobiographical. Charlotte Perkins Gilman did have a doctor by the name of Silas Weir Mitchell who prescribed a "resting cure" that nearly drove her mad. Gilman herself suffered from mental illness as well as the confines of married life. She sought to work and believed intellectual labor would be best to bring her out of depression, but she was not allowed to do so during the "resting cure."

The interactions between characters are germane to a critical analysis, so it is useful to look at dialogue and search for evidence of conflict. Take note that John, the narrator's husband, is the "active" member of the family and takes a domineering role. In paragraph 5, the narrator—somewhat ironically—states that John laughs at her. But the most telling lines that indicate his superiority are when he is attempting to console the narrator while in bed. "What is it, little girl?" and "Bless her little heart" are phrases one might utter to a child, not a grown and autonomous woman. John's sister Jennie, who is also the housekeeper, acts in a similar manner as the warden who will not allow the narrator to write, as indicated by the lines "I must not let her find me writing" and "There's sister on the stairs."

One noticeable plot device is the lack of backstory. Gilman propels the reader forward by keeping us searching for clues as to whether the narrator is reliable. Also, essential to the gothic horror genre is the way Gilman holds the denouement until the final line of the story. This forces the reader to keep reading in order to deduce the reality of what is happening in the midst of the surreal action. The reader should also note that the first-person, present-tense narration serves to keep them in the midst of the choreography.

Finally, look at the style of Gilman's writing—the tone, word choice, and syntax. The tone changes as the story progresses and the narrator's mental health deteriorates. In paragraph 19, she describes the house as "the most beautiful place," and in paragraph 20, she asserts the gardens are "delicious," her word choice indicating an optimistic and pleasurable attitude. In this opening section, Gilman uses long sentences with complex syntax as a suggestion of the narrator's more normal mental state. She says in paragraph 19,

I never saw such a garden—large and shady, full of box-bordered paths, and lined with long grape-covered arbors with seats under them.

But as the narrator experiences greater internal conflict and both John and Jennie limit her ability to act autonomously, the syntax turns to short, staccato phrases formed as individual paragraphs.

I don’t know why I should write this.

I don’t want to.

I don’t feel able.

The author continues this technique through to the end, which forces the story into a frenzied pace, propelling the reader toward the climax and denouement.

Why, there’s John at the door!

It is no use, young man, you can’t open it!

How he does call and pound!

Now he’s crying for an axe.

By these phrases, the once pensive tone has deteriorated in order to reflect the narrator's mental breakdown, and the word choice focuses on simple, quick actions lacking embellishment or rumination.

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