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Overview

The brevity of “The Yellow Wallpaper” means that every word has been carefully chosen to support the narrative. While every passage of the story is relevant, certain quotes are worth examining in detail in order to better grasp the broader themes within the story, as well as to show the literary techniques Gilman employs to create its gothic tone and convey its meaning.



“The color is repellent, almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight.”

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.
The color is repellent, almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight.

This passage details the narrator’s disgust with the yellow wallpaper and highlights Gilman’s use of several literary techniques: consonance, visual imagery, and olfactory imagery. The repetition of the consonant r and s sounds is employed through words like “repellent,” “revolting,” “smouldering,” “strangely,” and “slow-turning sunlight.” The use of visual and olfactory imagery emerge in the descriptions of “unclean yellow” and orange “faded by the slow-turning sunlight,” and the “sickly sulphur” which elicits the noxious smell of sulphur when burned. As the story progresses, the narrator uses increasingly violent images and fragmented sentences to describe the wallpaper, illuminating the deterioration of her mental state. 

“There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me, or ever will.”

This quote is the first instance in which the narrator makes explicit her connection to the yellow wallpaper. She becomes possessive of its mystery, and in doing so, demonstrates her complete fixation on it. As the story progresses, the narrator’s compulsion to understand the intricacies of the wallpaper become increasingly involved, until she becomes so absorbed with it that she becomes the woman trapped in the wallpaper. Her imposed rest and forced isolation drive her to a paranoia that controls her life. She cannot think or write about anything besides the wallpaper and the woman trapped within it. 

“It is the same woman, I know, for she is always creeping, and most women do not creep by daylight.”

The narrator of “The Yellow Wallpaper” experiences her struggle in a deeply personal arena: her own home and mind. However, passages such as this one suggest that she recognizes the broader implications of her experiences and the potential effects they have on...

(The entire section is 831 words.)