Interesting Literature

A Summary and Analysis of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’

By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)

‘The Yellow Wallpaper’, an 1892 short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, has the structure and style of a diary. This is in keeping with what the female narrator tells us: that she can only write down her experiences when her husband John is not around, since he has forbidden her to write until she is well again, believing it will overexcite her.

Through a series of short instalments, we learn more about the narrator’s situation, and her treatment at the hands of her doctor husband and her sister-in-law.

To summarise the story, then: the narrator and her husband John, a doctor, have come to stay at a large country house. As the story develops, we realise that the woman’s husband has brought her to the house in order to try to cure her of her mental illness (he has told her that repairs are being carried out on their home, which is why they have had to relocate to a mansion).

His solution, or treatment, is effectively to lock her away from everyone – including her own family, except for him – and to forbid her anything that might excite her, such as writing. (She writes her account of what happens to her, and the effect it has on her, in secret, hiding her pen and paper when her husband or his sister come into the room.)

John’s suggested treatment for his wife also extends to relieving her of maternal duties: their baby is taken out of her hands and looked after by John’s sister, Jennie. Jennie also does all of the cooking and housework.

It becomes clear, as the story develops, that depriving the female narrator of anything to occupy her mind is making her mental illness worse, not better.

The narrator confides that she cannot even cry in her husband’s company, or when anyone else is present, because that will be interpreted as a sign that her condition is worsening – and her husband has promised (threatened?) to send her to another doctor, Weir Mitchell, if her condition doesn’t show signs of improving. And according to a female friend who has been treated by him, Weir Mitchell is like her husband and brother ‘only more so’ (i.e. stricter).

The narrator then outlines in detail how she sometimes sits for hours on end in her room, tracing the patterns in the yellow wallpaper. She then tells us she thinks she can see a woman ‘stooping down and creeping about behind that pattern.’ At this point, she changes her mind, and goes from being fond of the pattern in the yellow wallpaper to wishing she could go away from the place.

She tells John that she isn’t getting any better in this house and that she would like to leave, but he tells her she is looking healthier and that they cannot return home for another three weeks, until their lease is up and the ‘repairs’ at home have been completed.

Despondent, the narrator tells us how she is becoming more obsessed by the yellow wallpaper, especially at night when she is unable to sleep and so lies awake watching the pattern in the wallpaper, which she says resembles a fungus.

She starts to fear her husband. She becomes paranoid that her husband and sister-in-law, Jennie, are trying to decipher the pattern in the yellow wallpaper, and she becomes determined to beat them to it. (Jennie was actually checking the wallpaper because the thought it was staining their clothes; this is the reason she gives to the narrator when asked about it, anyway. However, the more likely reason is that she and John have noticed the narrator’s obsession with looking at the wallpaper, and are becoming concerned.)

Next, the narrator tells us she has noticed the strange smell of the wallpaper, and tells us she seriously considered burning down the house to try to solve the mystery of what she smell was. She concludes that it is simply ‘a yellow smell!’ We now realise that the narrator is losing her mind rather badly.

She becomes convinced that the ‘woman behind’ the yellow wallpaper is shaking it, thus moving the front pattern of the paper. She says she has seen this woman creeping about the grounds of the house during the day; she returns to behind the wallpaper at night.

The narrator then tells us that she believes John and Jennie have become ‘affected’ by the wallpaper – that they are losing their minds from being exposed to it.

So the narrator begins stripping the yellow wallpaper from the walls, much to the consternation of Jennie. John has all of his wife’s things moved out of the room, ready for them to leave the house. While John is out, the narrator locks herself inside the now bare room and throws the key out the window, so she cannot be disturbed.

She has become convinced that there are many creeping women roaming the grounds of the house, all of them originating from behind the yellow wallpaper, and that she is one of them. The story ends with her husband banging on the door to be let in, fetching the key when she tells him it’s down by the front door mat, and bursting into the room – whereupon he faints, at the sight of his wife creeping around the room.

That concludes our attempt to summarise the ‘plot’ of ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’.

‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ begins by dangling the idea that what we are about to read is a haunted house story, a Gothic tale, a piece of horror. Why else, wonders the story’s female narrator, would the house be available so cheaply unless it was haunted? And why had it remained unoccupied for so long? This is how many haunted house tales begin.

And this will turn out to be true, in many ways – the story is often included in anthologies of horror fiction, and there is a ‘haunting’ of a kind going on in the story – but as ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ develops we realise we’re reading something far more unsettling than a run-of-the-mill haunted house story, because the real ghosts and demons are either inside the narrator’s troubled mind or else her own husband and her sister-in-law.

Of course, these two things are linked. Because one of the ‘morals’ of ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ – if ‘moral’ is not too strong a word to use of such a story – is that the husband’s treatment of his wife’s mental illness only succeeds in making her worse , rather than better, until her condition reaches the point where she is completely mad, suffering from hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia. So ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ is a haunted house story … but the only ghosts are inside the narrator’s head.

‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ borrows familiar tropes from a Gothic horror story – it ends with the husband taking an axe to the bedroom door where his cowering wife is imprisoned – but the twist is that, by the end of the story, she has imprisoned herself in her deluded belief that she is protecting her husband from the ‘creeping women’ from behind the wallpaper, and he is prepared to beat down the door with an axe out of genuine concern for his sick wife, rather than to butcher her, Bluebeard or Jack Torrance style.

Narrative Style

As we mentioned at the beginning of this analysis, ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ has the structure and style of a diary. This is in keeping with what the female narrator tells us: that she can only write down her experiences when her husband John is not around. But it also has the effect of shifting the narrative tense: from the usual past tense to the more unusual present tense.

Only one year separates ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ from George Egerton’s first volume of short stories , which made similarly pioneering use of present-tense narration in order to depict female consciousness.

The literary critic Ruth Robbins has made the argument that the past tense (or ‘perfect tense’) is unsuited to some modes of fiction because it offers the ‘perspective that leads to judgment’: because events have already occurred, we feel in a position to judge the characters involved.

Present-tense narration deters us from doing this so readily, for two reasons. First, we are thrown in amongst the events, experiencing them as they happen almost, so we feel complicit in them. Second, because things are still unfolding seemingly before our very eyes, we feel that to attempt to pass judgment on what’s happening would be too rash and premature: we don’t know for sure how things are going to play out yet.

Given that Gilman is writing about a mentally unstable woman being mistreated by her male husband (and therefore, given his profession, by the medical world too), her decision to plunge us headlong into the events of the story encourages us to listen to what the narrator is telling us before we attempt to pronounce on what’s going on.

The fact that ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ is narrated in the first person, from the woman’s own perspective and in her own voice, is also a factor: the only access we have to her treatment (or mistreatment) and to her husband’s behaviour and personality is through her: what she tells us and how she tells it to us.

But there is another narrative advantage to this present-tense diary structure: we as readers are forced to appraise everything we are told by the narrator, and scrutinise it carefully, deciding whether we are being told the whole story or whether the narrator, in her nervous and unstable state, may not be seeing things as they really are.

A good example of this is when, having told us at length how she follows the patterns on the yellow wallpaper on the walls of her room, sometimes for hours on end, the narrator then tells us she is glad her baby doesn’t have to live in the same room, because someone as ‘impressionable’ as her child wouldn’t do well in such a room.

The dramatic irony which the narrator cannot see but which we, tragically, can, is that she is every bit as impressionable as a small child, and the yellow wallpaper – and, more broadly, her effective incarceration – is clearly having a deleterious effect on her mental health. (The story isn’t perfect: Gilman telegraphs the irony a little too strongly when, in the next breath, she has her narrator tell us, with misplaced confidence, ‘I can stand it so much easier than a baby, you see.’)

In the last analysis, ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ is so unsettling because it plays with established Gothic horror conventions and then subverts them in order to expose the misguided medical practices used in an attempt to ‘treat’ or ‘cure’ women who are suffering from mental or nervous disorders. It has become a popular feminist text about the male mistreatment of women partly because the ‘villain’, the narrator’s husband John, is acting out of a genuine (if hubristic) belief that he knows what’s best for her.

The whole field of nineteenth-century patriarchal society and the way it treats women thus comes under scrutiny, in a story that is all the more powerful for refusing to preach, even while it lets one such mistreated woman speak for herself.

10 thoughts on “A Summary and Analysis of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’”

I absolutely loved this story. read it a few times in a row when I first crossed paths with it a few years ago –

“The Yellow Wallpaper” remains one of the most disturbing books I’ve ever read. Excellent analysis!

Fantastic book.

I cringe every time this story appears on a reading list or in a curriculum textbook. It’s almost hysterical in tone and quite disturbing in how overstated the “abuse” of the wife is supposed to be. It’s right up there with “The Awakening” as feminist literature that hinders, instead of promoting, the dilemma of 19th century women.

How is it overstated?

To witness the woman’s unraveling and how ignored she is, to me, a profound statement how people with emotional distress are not treated with respect.

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Terrific analysis. Gothic fiction is always open to many forms of reading and particularly for feminist reading – as openly presented by Angela Carter’ neo-gothic stories (which I would love to read your analyses of one day Oliver!). ‘the Yellow Wallpaper’ I think is the go-to story for most feminist commentators on Gothic fiction – and rightly so. I can’t help notice the connections between this story and the (mis)treatments of Sigmund Freud. Soooo much in this story to think about that I feel like a kiddie in sweet shop!

Thank you as always, Ken, for the thoughtful comment – and I completely agree about the links with Freud. The 1890s really was a pioneering age for psychiatric treatment/analysis, though we cringe at some of the ideas that were seriously considered (and put into practice). Oddly enough I’ve just been rearranging the pile of books on the floor of my study here at IL Towers, and The Bloody Chamber is near the top of my list of books to cover in due course!

I will wait with abated breath for your thoughts! I love Angela Carter :)

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Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s classic short story, "The Yellow Wallpaper" tells the story of a young woman’s gradual descent into psychosis. " The Yellow Wallpaper" is often cited as an early feminist work that predates a woman’s right to vote in the United States. The author was involved in first-wave feminism, and her other works questioned the origins of the subjugation of women, particularly in marriage. "

The Yellow Wallpaper" is a widely read work that asks difficult questions about the role of women, particularly regarding their mental health and right to autonomy and self-identity. We’ll go over The Yellow Wallpaper summary, themes and symbols, The Yellow Wallpaper analysis, and some important information about the author.

"The Yellow Wallpaper" Summary

"The Yellow Wallpaper" details the deterioration of a woman's mental health while she is on a "rest cure" on a rented summer country estate with her family. Her obsession with the yellow wallpaper in her bedroom marks her descent into psychosis from her depression throughout the story.

The narrator of "The Yellow Wallpaper" begins the story by discussing her move to a beautiful estate for the summer. Her husband, John, is also her doctor , and the move is meant in part to help the narrator overcome her “illness,” which she explains as nervous depression, or nervousness, following the birth of their baby. John’s sister, Jennie, also lives with them and works as their housekeeper.

Though her husband believes she will get better with rest and by not worrying about anything, the narrator has an active imagination and likes to write . He discourages her wonder about the house, and dismisses her interests. She mentions her baby more than once, though there is a nurse that cares for the baby, and the narrator herself is too nervous to provide care.

The narrator and her husband move into a large room that has ugly, yellow wallpaper that the narrator criticizes. She asks her husband if they can change rooms and move downstairs, and he rejects her. The more she stays in the room, the more the narrator’s fascination with the hideous wallpaper grows.

After hosting family for July 4th, the narrator expresses feeling even worse and more exhausted. She struggles to do daily activities, and her mental state is deteriorating. John encourages her to rest more, and the narrator hides her writing from him because he disapproves.

In the time between July 4th and their departure, the narrator is seemingly driven insane by the yellow wallpaper ; she sleeps all day and stays up all night to stare at it, believing that it comes alive, and the patterns change and move. Then, she begins to believe that there is a woman in the wallpaper who alters the patterns and is watching her.

A few weeks before their departure, John stays overnight in town and the narrator wants to sleep in the room by herself so she can stare at the wallpaper uninterrupted. She locks out Jennie and believes that she can see the woman in the wallpaper . John returns and frantically tries to be let in, and the narrator refuses; John is able to enter the room and finds the narrator crawling on the floor. She claims that the woman in the wallpaper has finally exited, and John faints, much to her surprise.

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Background on "The Yellow Wallpaper"

The author, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, was a lecturer for social reform, and her beliefs and philosophy play an important part in the creation of "The Yellow Wallpaper," as well as the themes and symbolism in the story. "The Yellow Wallpaper" also influenced later feminist writers.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, known as Charlotte Perkins Stetsman while she was married to her first husband, was born in Hartford, CT in 1860. Young Charlotte was observed as being bright, but her mother wasn’t interested in her education, and Charlotte spent lots of time in the library.

Charlotte married Charles Stetsman in 1884, and her daughter was born in 1885. She suffered from serious postpartum depression after giving birth to their daughter, Katharine. Her battle with postpartum depression and the doctors she dealt with during her illness inspired her to write "The Yellow Wallpaper."

The couple separated in 1888, the year that Perkins Gilman wrote her first book, Art Gems for the Home and Fireside. She later wrote "The Yellow Wallpaper" in 1890, while she was in a relationship with Adeline Knapp, and living apart from her legal husband. "The Yellow Wallpaper" was published in 1892, and in 1893 she published a book of satirical poetry , In This Our World, which gained her fame.

Eventually, Perkins Gilman got officially divorced from Stetsman, and ended her relationship with Knapp. She married her cousin, Houghton Gilman, and claimed to be satisfied in the marriage .

Perkins Gilman made a living as a lecturer on women’s issues, labor issues, and social reform . She toured Europe and the U.S. as a lecturer, and founded her own magazine, The Forerunner.

Publication

"The Yellow Wallpaper" was first published in January 1892 in New England Magazine.

During Perkins Gilman's lifetime, the role of women in American society was heavily restricted both socially and legally. At the time of its publication, women were still twenty-six years away from gaining the right to vote .

This viewpoint on women as childish and weak meant that they were discouraged from having any control over their lives. Women were encouraged or forced to defer to their husband’s opinions in all aspects of life , including financially, socially, and medically. Writing itself was revolutionary, since it would create a sense of identity, and was thought to be too much for the naturally fragile women.

Women's health was a particularly misunderstood area of medicine, as women were viewed as nervous, hysterical beings, and were discouraged from doing anything to further “upset” them. The prevailing wisdom of the day was that rest would cure hysteria, when in reality the constant boredom and lack of purpose likely worsened depression .

Perkins Gilman used her own experience in her first marriage and postpartum depression as inspiration for The Yellow Wallpaper, and illustrates how a woman’s lack of autonomy is detrimental to her mental health.

Upon its publication, Perkins Gilman sent a copy of "The Yellow Wallpaper" to the doctor who prescribed her the rest cure for her postpartum depression.

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"The Yellow Wallpaper" Characters

Though there are only a few characters in the story, they each have an important role. While the story is about the narrator’s mental deterioration, the relationships in her life are essential for understanding why and how she got to this point.

The Narrator

The narrator of the story is a young, upper-middle-class woman. She is imaginative and a natural writer, though she is discouraged from exploring this part of herself. She is a new mother and is thought to have “hysterical tendencies” or suffer from nervousness. Her name may be Jane but it is unclear.

John is the narrator’s husband and her physician. He restricts her activity as a part of her treatment. John is extremely practical, and belittles the narrator's imagination and feelings . He seems to care about her well-being, but believes he knows what is best for her and doesn't allow her input.

Jennie is John’s sister, who works as a housekeeper for the couple. Jennie seems concerned for the narrator, as indicated by her offer to sleep in the yellow wallpapered room with her. Jennie seems content with her domestic role .

Main Themes of "The Yellow Wallpaper"

From what we know about the author of this story and from interpreting the text, there are a few themes that are clear from a "Yellow Wallpaper" analysis. "The Yellow Wallpaper" was a serious piece of literature that addressed themes pertinent to women.

Women's Role in Marriage

Women were expected to be subordinate to their husbands and completely obedient, as well as take on strictly domestic roles inside the home . Upper middle class women, like the narrator, may go for long periods of time without even leaving the home. The story reveals that this arrangement had the effect of committing women to a state of naïveté, dependence, and ignorance.

John assumes he has the right to determine what’s best for his wife, and this authority is never questioned. He belittles her concerns, both concrete and the ones that arise as a result of her depression , and is said so brush her off and “laugh at her” when she speaks through, “this is to be expected in marriage” He doesn’t take her concerns seriously, and makes all the decisions about both of their lives.

As such, she has no say in anything in her life, including her own health, and finds herself unable to even protest.

Perkins Gilman, like many others, clearly disagreed with this state of things, and aimed to show the detrimental effects that came to women as a result of their lack of autonomy.

Identity and Self-Expression

Throughout the story, the narrator is discouraged from doing the things she wants to do and the things that come naturally to her, like writing. On more than one occasion, she hurries to put her journal away because John is approaching .

She also forces herself to act as though she’s happy and satisfied, to give the illusion that she is recovering, which is worse. She wants to be a good wife, according to the way the role is laid out for her, but struggles to conform especially with so little to actually do.

The narrator is forced into silence and submission through the rest cure, and desperately needs an intellectual and emotional outlet . However, she is not granted one and it is clear that this arrangement takes a toll.

The Rest Cure

The rest cure was commonly prescribed during this period of history for women who were “nervous.” Perkins Gilman has strong opinions about the merits of the rest cure , having been prescribed it herself. John’s insistence on the narrator getting “air” constantly, and his insistence that she do nothing that requires mental or physical stimulation is clearly detrimental.

The narrator is also discouraged from doing activities, whether they are domestic- like cleaning or caring for her baby- in addition to things like reading, writing, and exploring the grounds of the house. She is stifled and confined both physically and mentally, which only adds to her condition .

Perkins Gilman damns the rest cure in this story, by showing the detrimental effects on women, and posing that women need mental and physical stimulation to be healthy, and need to be free to make their own decisions over health and their lives.

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The Yellow Wallpaper Analysis: Symbols and Symbolism

Symbols are a way for the author to give the story meaning, and provide clues as to the themes and characters. There are two major symbols in "The Yellow Wallpaper."

The Yellow Wallpaper

This is of course the most important symbol in the story. The narrator is immediately fascinated and disgusted by the yellow wallpaper, and her understanding and interpretation fluctuates and intensifies throughout the story.

The narrator, because she doesn’t have anything else to think about or other mental stimulation, turns to the yellow wallpaper as something to analyze and interpret. The pattern eventually comes into focus as bars, and then she sees a woman inside the pattern . This represents feeling trapped.

At the end of the story, the narrator believes that the woman has come out of the wallpaper. This indicates that the narrator has finally merged fully into her psychosis , and become one with the house and domesticated discontent.

Though Jennie doesn’t have a major role in the story, she does present a foil to the narrator. Jennie is John’s sister and their housekeeper, and she is content, or so the narrator believes, to live a domestic life. Though she does often express her appreciation for Jennie’s presence in her home, she is clearly made to feel guilty by Jennie’s ability to run the household unencumbered .

Irony in The Yellow Wallpaper

"The Yellow Wallpaper" makes good use of dramatic and situational irony. Dramatic literary device in which the reader knows or understands things that the characters do not. Situational irony is when the character’s actions are meant to do one thing, but actually do another. Here are a few examples.

For example, when the narrator first enters the room with the yellow wallpaper, she believes it to be a nursery . However, the reader can clearly see that the room could have just as easily been used to contain a mentally unstable person.

The best example of situational irony is the way that John continues to prescribe the rest-cure, which worsens the narrator's state significantly. He encourages her to lie down after meals and sleep more, which causes her to be awake and alert at night, when she has time to sit and evaluate the wallpaper.

The Yellow Wallpaper Summary

"The Yellow Wallpaper" is one of the defining works of feminist literature. Writing about a woman’s health, mental or physical, was considered a radical act at the time that Perkins Gilman wrote this short story. Writing at all about the lives of women was considered at best, frivolous, and at worst dangerous. When you take a look at The Yellow Wallpaper analysis, the story is an important look into the role of women in marriage and society, and it will likely be a mainstay in the feminist literary canon.

What's Next?

Looking for more expert guides on literary classics? Read our guides on The Cask of Amontillado and The Great Gatsby .

Need important and interesting quotes? Check out these 18 To Kill a Mockingbird Quotes and 9 Great Mark Twain Quotes .

For help analyzing literature and writing essays , read our expert guide on imagery , literary elements , and writing an argumentative essay .

Carrie holds a Bachelors in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College, and is currently pursuing an MFA. She worked in book publishing for several years, and believes that books can open up new worlds. She loves reading, the outdoors, and learning about new things.

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Literary Theory and Criticism

Home › Literature › Analysis of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wall-Paper

Analysis of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wall-Paper

By NASRULLAH MAMBROL on April 28, 2022

First published in New England Magazine in January 1892, and reprinted by Small, Maynard and Company as a chapbook (1899), “The Yellow Wall-Paper” is Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s most famous work. Depicting the nervous breakdown of a young wife and mother, the story is a potent example of psychological realism. Based loosely on Gilman’s own experiences in undergoing the rest cure for neurasthenia, the story documents the psychological torment of her fictional first-person narrator.

The narrator’s husband, John, a physician, prescribes isolation and inactivity as treatment for her illness, a “temporary nervous depression—a slight hysterical tendency” (10). John forbids her to engage in any kind of labor, including writing. Despite his admonitions, however, the narrator records her impressions in a secret diary.

short story analysis essay on the yellow wallpaper

Granger Historical Picture Archive/Alamy Stock Photo

These diary entries compose the text of the story; they reveal the narrator’s emotional descent. As the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that she is suffering an acute form of postpartum depression, a condition acknowledged neither by John nor by the late-19th-century medical community. So severe is the narrator’s depression that a nursemaid has assumed care of the new baby. Deprived of the freedom to write openly, which she believes would be therapeutic, the narrator gradually shifts her attention to the yellow wallpaper in the attic nursery where she spends her time. The paper both intrigues and repels her; it becomes the medium on which she symbolically inscribes her “text.” Soon she detects a subpattern in the wallpaper that crystallizes into the image of an imprisoned woman attempting to escape. In the penultimate scene, the narrator’s identity merges with that of the entrapped woman, and together they frantically tear the paper from the walls. In an ironic reversal in the final scene, John breaks into the room and, after witnessing the full measure of his wife’s insanity, faints. Significantly, however, he is still blocking his wife, literally and symbolically obstructing her path so that she has to “creep over him every time!” (36).

Critics disagree over the meaning of the story, variously arguing the significance of everything from linguistic cues, to psychoanalytic interpretations, to historiographical readings. While some critics have hailed the narrator as a feminist heroine, others have seen in her a maternal failure coupled with a morbid fear of female sexuality. Some have viewed the story, with its yellow paper, as an exemplar of the silencing of women writers in 19th-century America; others have focused on its gothic elements.

Since the Feminist Press reissued the story in 1973, “The Yellow Wall-Paper” has been widely anthologized and is now firmly assimilated in the American literary body of work.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wall-paper. Boston: Small, Maynard, & Co., 1899. Reprint, Old Westbury, N.Y.: Feminist Press, 1973. Lanser, Susan A. “Feminist Criticism, ‘The Yellow Wallpaper,’ and the Politics of Color in America.” Feminist Studies 15, no. 3 (Fall 1989): 415–441. Shumaker, Conrad. “ ‘Too Terribly Good to Be Printed’: Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper.’ ” American Literature 57, no. 4 (1985): 588–599. Veeder, William. “Who Is Jane? The Intricate Feminism of Charlotte Perkins Gilman.” Arizona Quarterly 44, no. 3 (1988): 40–79.

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Analysis of 'The Yellow Wallpaper' by C. Perkins Gilman

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Like Kate Chopin's " The Story of an Hour ," Charlotte Perkins Gilman's " The Yellow Wallpaper " is a mainstay of feminist literary study. First published in 1892, the story takes the form of secret journal entries written by a woman who is supposed to be recovering from what her husband, a physician, calls a nervous condition.

This haunting psychological horror story chronicles the narrator's descent into madness, or perhaps into the paranormal, or perhaps—depending on your interpretation—into freedom. The result is a story as chilling as anything by Edgar Allan Poe or Stephen King .

Recovery Through Infantilization

The protagonist's husband, John, does not take her illness seriously. Nor does he take her seriously. He prescribes, among other things, a "rest cure," in which she is confined to their summer home, mostly to her bedroom.

The woman is discouraged from doing anything intellectual, even though she believes some "excitement and change" would do her good. She is allowed very little company—certainly not from the "stimulating" people she most wishes to see. Even her writing must happen in secret.

In short, John treats her like a child. He calls her diminutive names like "blessed little goose" and "little girl." He makes all decisions for her and isolates her from the things she cares about.

Even her bedroom is not the one she wanted; instead, it's a room that appears to have once been a nursery, emphasizing her return to infancy. Its "windows are barred for little children," showing again that she is being treated as a child—as well as a prisoner.

John's actions are couched in concern for the woman, a position that she initially seems to believe herself. "He is very careful and loving," she writes in her journal, "and hardly lets me stir without special direction." Her words also sound as if she is merely parroting what she's been told, though phrases like "hardly lets me stir" seem to harbor a veiled complaint.

Fact Versus Fancy

John dismisses anything that hints of emotion or irrationality—what he calls "fancy." For instance, when the narrator says that the wallpaper in her bedroom disturbs her, he informs her that she is letting the wallpaper "get the better of her" and refuses to remove it.

John doesn't simply dismiss things he finds fanciful though; he also uses the charge of "fancy" to dismiss anything he doesn't like. In other words, if he doesn't want to accept something, he simply declares that it is irrational.

When the narrator tries to have a "reasonable talk" with him about her situation, she is so distraught that she is reduced to tears. Instead of interpreting her tears as evidence of her suffering, he takes them as evidence that she is irrational and can't be trusted to make decisions for herself.

As part of his infantilization of her, he speaks to her as if she is a whimsical child, imagining her own illness. "Bless her little heart!" he says. "She shall be as sick as she pleases!" He does not want to acknowledge that her problems are real, so he silences her.

The only way the narrator could appear rational to John would be to become satisfied with her situation, which means there is no way for her to express concerns or ask for changes.

In her journal, the narrator writes:

"John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no reason to suffer, and that satisfies him."

John can't imagine anything outside his own judgment. So when he determines that the narrator's life is satisfactory, he imagines that the fault lies with her perception. It never occurs to him that her situation might really need improvement.

The Wallpaper

The nursery walls are covered in putrid yellow wallpaper with a confused, eerie pattern. The narrator is horrified by it.

She studies the incomprehensible pattern in the wallpaper, determined to make sense of it. But rather than making sense of it, she begins to identify a second pattern—that of a woman creeping furtively behind the first pattern, which acts as a prison for her.

The first pattern of the wallpaper can be seen as the societal expectations that hold women, like the narrator, captive. Her recovery will be measured by how cheerfully she resumes her domestic duties as wife and mother, and her desire to do anything else—like write—is something that would interfere with that recovery.

Though the narrator studies and studies the pattern in the wallpaper, it never makes any sense to her. Similarly, no matter how hard she tries to recover, the terms of her recovery—embracing her domestic role—never make sense to her, either.

The creeping woman can represent both victimization by the societal norms and resistance to them.

This creeping woman also gives a clue about why the first pattern is so troubling and ugly. It seems to be peppered with distorted heads with bulging eyes—the heads of other creeping women who were strangled by the pattern when they tried to escape it. That is, women who couldn't survive when they tried to resist cultural norms. Gilman writes that "nobody could climb through that pattern—it strangles so."

Becoming a Creeping Woman

Eventually, the narrator becomes a creeping woman herself. The first indication is when she says, rather startlingly, "I always lock the door when I creep by daylight." Later, the narrator and the creeping woman work together to pull off the wallpaper.

The narrator also writes, "[T]here are so many of those creeping women, and they creep so fast," implying that the narrator is only one of many.

That her shoulder "just fits" into the groove on the wall is sometimes interpreted to mean that she has been the one ripping the paper and creeping around the room all along. But it could also be interpreted as an assertion that her situation is no different from that of many other women. In this interpretation, "The Yellow Wallpaper" becomes not just a story about one woman's madness, but a maddening system.

At one point, the narrator observes the creeping women from her window and asks, "I wonder if they all come out of that wallpaper as I did?"

Her coming out of the wallpaper—her freedom—coincides with a descent into mad behavior: ripping off the paper, locking herself in her room, even biting the immovable bed. That is, her freedom comes when she finally reveals her beliefs and behavior to those around her and stops hiding.

The final scene—in which John faints and the narrator continues to creep around the room, stepping over him every time—is disturbing but also triumphant. Now John is the one who is weak and sickly, and the narrator is the one who finally gets to determine the rules of her own existence. She is finally convinced that he only "pretended to be loving and kind." After being consistently infantilized by his comments, she turns the tables on him by addressing him condescendingly, if only in her mind, as "young man."

John refused to remove the wallpaper, and in the end, the narrator used it as her escape. 

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The Yellow Wallpaper

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Analysis: “The Yellow Wallpaper”

Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” was first published in 1892 in The New England Magazine ; many literature scholars consider it a classic of feminist literature. The story contains a critique of the restrictive and counterproductive “rest cure,” invented by Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell and popular in the late 1800s, as well as a comment on patriarchy, marriage, gender roles, and the female voice .

The stream of consciousness style of narration as well as the structure of the story allows the reader access to the inner world of the narrator , a woman whose post-childbirth experience follows the emotional and psychological path of Gilman’s own episode of postpartum depression. Through the ten diary entries that make up the whole of the short story, the reader experiences the narrator’s mental breakdown alongside the narrator herself. The diary entries and sentence lengths change and transform as the story progresses, reflecting the narrator’s rapid decline into madness.

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The Yellow Wallpaper: Summary and Analysis

July 16, 2023

short story analysis essay on the yellow wallpaper

Reading this “The Yellow Wallpaper” summary and analysis will help students gain a solid understanding of a canonical short story. In this article, we’ll analyze the historical and biographical relevance, characters, symbols, themes, and more. We’ll also consider the story from several critical lenses. By the end, readers will be peeling back layers of meaning as if stripping away sheets of wallpaper to reveal multiple, even paradoxical interpretations.

But first, if you haven’t already done so, read “The Yellow Wallpaper.” It’s just over 6,000 words and can be read in one afternoon. Once you’re finished, step back into 19th-century New England for a little historical context.

“The Yellow Wallpaper” Summary: The Author

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, born in Connecticut a year before the Civil War, had an unusual upbringing. Her father abandoned her family in her infancy, and her mother relied on the help of her husband’s sisters. These women made a pretty incredible lineup. They included suffragist Isabella Beecher Hooker, author Harriet Beecher Stowe, and educationalist Catharine Beecher. Gilman’s impressive aunts influenced her understanding of what a woman could accomplish. Her mother, on the other hand, forbade reading fiction. Despite receiving only four years of formal schooling, Gilman enrolled in classes at the Rhode Island School of Design. In this era, most women didn’t attend college at all, and settled instead for marriage.

Around this time, Gilman met Martha Luther, and the two became extremely close. Their friendship evolved into a romance, one constrained by society’s codes and anti-gay laws. Yet she married Charles Walter Stetson at 24. A year later, she suffered postpartum depression after the birth of her daughter. As this depression deepened, her doctor, Silas Weir Mitchell, prescribed a “rest cure.” The treatment involved long, frequent naps, a focus on childcare, and a particular caveat: Charlotte should “never touch pen, brush or pencil” for as long as she lived. For someone passionate about poetry, this rest cure was a death sentence.

“The Yellow Wallpaper” Summary (Continued)

Luckily for Gilman, her depression subsided after she and Stetson divorced—another unusual choice for a woman at this time. We find echoes of these autobiographical events in her short story “The Yellow Wallpaper.” New England Magazine published Gilman’s story in 1892. While Gilman went on to publish books of poetry and give lectures on topics including suffrage and social reform, “The Yellow Wallpaper” remains her chef d’oeuvre, and has been anthologized in various collections.

Progressive or Problematic Feminist?

Unfortunately, we can’t revisit Gilman without acknowledging her unsavory beliefs. Yes, she championed social reform, and yes, she was related to Harriet Beecher Stowe, the abolitionist author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin . Yet Gilman’s views on race appear convoluted and misguided at best. A deeper look into her writing reveals blatant racism. Though not a supporter of slavery, Gilman adopted a eugenicist stance, claiming that Anglo-Saxons belonged to a purer class of people. These dangerous and abhorrent views complicate the history of women’s rights in America—a movement that owes much of its success to black suffragists .

Though we may study Gilman’s work through a feminist lens, we certainly should not mistake her for a hero. She’s a complex figure, a champion of women’s rights, and an ignorant member of the white elite, blinded by privilege. In fact, the paradoxes in her biography point to a bigger entanglement of class, power, gender, and race in America. Thus, we shouldn’t ignore her problematic views when reading her work. Rather, we ought to incorporate and critique them as part of our analysis of “The Yellow Wallpaper.”

“The Yellow Wallpaper” Characters

A slim cast of characters appears in “The Yellow Wallpaper.” We first encounter the narrator, an unnamed woman, and her husband John, a physician. They appear as “people like John and myself.” This immediate coupling of the two main characters creates a false sense of companionship. Yet as the story progresses, the reader will notice a strange dichotomy. John’s opinions on his wife’s health, and his power to impose his opinions, are at odds with her real mental and physical needs.

The narrator could be called “unreliable.” As her mental health deteriorates, the reader becomes less capable of differentiating between what the narrator sees and reality. This distorted point of view allows for an interesting ambiguity and multiple interpretations. For example, among our list of characters we must consider those that don’t exist. The narrator writes, “I always fancy I see people walking in these numerous paths,” though John claims they don’t exist.

Jennie, John’s sister, lingers at the story’s periphery, taking care of household chores and the baby. This baby remains offstage, for the narrator feels too nervous to care for him. (“Jennie” is a nickname for “Jane,” which also appears in the story.) Other offstage characters include Gilman’s real-life physician, Weir Mitchell, and a brother, also a physician. While their roles seem minimal, these authority figures work to further dissolve the narrator’s credibility. We also hear of cousins Henry and Julia, whom the narrator isn’t allowed to visit. She does briefly see her mother and Nellie (perhaps a sister), and Nellie’s children. Lastly, the narrator mentions someone named “Mary,” who may be a servant. (From a critical race lens, we might ask if Mary is black. This would explain why her presence appears inconsequential to a white, upper-class narrator.)

“The Yellow Wallpaper” Summary

Much of what occurs in “The Yellow Wallpaper” takes place in the narrator’s mind. The story begins with the narrator’s first secret journal entry. She describes a summer house they’ve rented, which she finds “queer,” and “haunted.” John dismisses these impressions. He prefers rational ideas. He forbids the narrator from daydreaming, as well as writing, or performing any stimulating work. In fact, because of her condition, which John calls a “temporary nervous depression,” the narrator cannot have “society and stimulus.” Rather than pick a pretty room, she must sleep in an eerie nursery covered in garish strips of yellow wallpaper.

The stifling atmosphere of “The Yellow Wallpaper” only worsens. Work takes John away most days. The narrator’s strength has weakened, so she cannot write in her journal for two weeks, nor care for her baby. Describing the room in greater detail, we learn that the floor is “scratched and gouged and splintered.” The wallpaper’s pattern appears to crawl with “absurd, unblinking eyes.” Occasionally, the narrator spots “a strange, provoking, formless sort of figure” there.

Next, Jennie takes on more housekeeping responsibilities. The narrator writes infrequently, recounting her exhaustion, despite enforced naps. John refuses to leave early, though his wife feels worse and cries all the time. Nevertheless, John insists she’s improving. She investigates the figure in the wallpaper and determines she’s a woman. This woman crawls about and shakes the bars that form a pattern on the wallpaper. Determined to discover the wallpaper’s secret, the narrator waits until John is out. Then she locks herself in the nursery and strips off large swaths of paper. When John finds her, she’s creeping about the room, just like the women who creep in the paper and along the hedges. John faints—and the narrator continues to creep right over his prone body!

“The Yellow Wallpaper” Summary: Symbols

The wallpaper serves as the story’s title and primary symbol. The wallpaper becomes the narrator’s obsession, and thus reflects and represents her mental instability. Yet this symbol has layers. Not only does it represent an impenetrable wall where rational thought ends and madness begins. It also offers up a surface on which the narrator can project her own fantasies. In this way, the yellow wallpaper becomes a multi-layered symbol of creative freedom, repression of that freedom, and the madness that ensues.

Within the wallpaper, the narrator finds various images. These images, too, serve as symbols. For example, we might interpret the eyes in the pattern as a sort of watchfulness. They could represent the gaze of society, keeping an eye on the narrator. Reversely, we could interpret these eyes as belonging to the woman, or women, trapped below the paper. In this sense, their eyes reflect an inability to speak. They can look, but they cannot express their imprisonment. Likewise, the bars in the wallpaper point to the repression of women. The narrator describes these bars as an outside pattern, which a woman beneath shakes to no avail.

“The Yellow Wallpaper” Summary: Irony

Besides symbolism, “The Yellow Wallpaper” employs an array of literary devices. Irony pervades the entire story and allows for double interpretations. For example, the narrator writes, “John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage.” The reader can read this at face value. In this case, the narrator suggests that marriage simply involves harmless laughter. Read ironically, the reader will see that the narrator is stating that a wife is not expected to be taken seriously. Irony reveals that John patronizes his wife (or “little girl”). He “cares” for her through a combination of absence and prohibition, denying her any liberty. He contradicts himself, telling his wife she’s fine one moment, then convincing her she’s sick when it suits him.

The nursery room carries an allusion to a very different sort of room. The more the narrator describes this room, the more it sounds like it may have been used to restrain someone. (The bed is nailed to the floor.) Here Gilman invites her readers to recollect Charlotte Brontë’s famous madwoman in the attic, the character Bertha from Jane Eyre . Readers who make this connection may wonder if John insisted on keeping his wife here for the same reason Mr. Rochester hid Bertha. Through allusion, the nursery takes on an even more sinister appearance.

The couple’s baby acts as another allusion, this time to postpartum depression, which Gilman herself suffered from. Doctors at the turn of the century understood very little about postpartum depression. They dismissed it as hysteria, a catch-all phrase to explain away female ailments.

“The Yellow Wallpaper” Summary: Foreshadowing

*Trigger warning: this subsection discusses mental health in relation to suicide, and may be distressing to readers.

Foreshadowing appears in the story as well. When describing the wallpaper, the narrator talks of curving lines that “suddenly commit suicide—plunge off at outrageous angles…” Later, she describes “a recurrent spot where the pattern lolls like a broken neck and two bulbous eyes stare at you upside-down.” A third reference to suicide appears when the narrator states that “to jump out of the window would be admirable exercise.”

Yet Gilman’s narrator remains alive at the end of the story. These planted hints of coming death have a different end goal. They ask the reader to take women, and women’s artistic endeavors, seriously. Gilman herself spoke of suicide during her “rest cure,” when she wasn’t allowed to produce art. The sculptor Camille Claudel and, decades later, writer Virginia Woolf both attempted suicide by jumping from a window. Through this foreshadowing, “The Yellow Wallpaper” warns against a greater societal tragedy taking place across the centuries.

“The Yellow Wallpaper” Analysis: Theme 1

Taken together, these literary devices allow readers to better understand several underlying themes. The first involves the suffering and subordination of women in society. This larger social commentary becomes particularly evident when the narrator begins to see “a great many women” behind the bars of the wallpaper. Through a critical feminist perspective, we might say that the narrator seems to intuit the past repression of other women just like her. She senses that she’s part of a larger, systemic problem. Other details in the story point to this system. Jennie, presumably well-educated and belonging to the upper class, has no prospects other than serving her brother as a housekeeper.

The second theme involves the danger of rest cures. While “resting” sounds innocuous enough, being forced to do nothing can turn into torture. In fact, this lifestyle resembles prison life—no wonder the wallpaper appears to have bars. In the late 19th century, rest cures were prescribed to women who suffered real ailments, including depression. These rest cures backfired, enhancing symptoms of depression. They corralled women into a position of uselessness, just like the narrator state in this story. Deprived of friends, work, hobbies, and exercise, and unable to speak of this deprivation, women were reduced to the role of mother, or worse: a birthing instrument.

“The Yellow Wallpaper” Analysis: Theme 3

The third theme involves creative power as emancipation. While writing wearies the narrator of “The Yellow Wallpaper,” it also offers her rare moments of autonomy and agency. The narrator states, “I must say what I feel and think in some way—it is such a relief!” In Gilman’s time, society and medicine reinforced the theory that education would overstimulate women’s brains and lead to hysteria. Today we know that women’s and men’s brains function the same way. Women are equally capable of creative output. In fact, studies show that creative outlets allow people to heal faster. Gilman and many others knew of the benefits of working. In fact, many men in her time did too. Yet those who wished to uphold a strictly patriarchal system forbid women from expressing their opinions. They feared that these opinions would undermine men’s superior positions.

“The Yellow Wallpaper” Analysis and Conclusions

As we’ve seen from “The Yellow Wallpaper” summary, this short story must be read at multiple levels. Various perspectives, from a biographical standpoint to a feminist lens to a critical race lens allow readers to peel back layers of meaning. So what can we make of the ending?

The story ends with the narrator believing she herself has emerged from the wallpaper. Most analyses commonly state that this ending depicts her descent into a full-fledged psychosis. And yet, readers may also come to an inverse conclusion. If the women behind the wallpaper’s bars represent female suppression, we can interpret the narrator’s final act as one of defiance and emancipation.

Rather than throw herself out the window, as a tragic female heroine might, the narrator disobeys her oppressive husband and locks the door. Just as divorce allowed Gilman to overcome her depression, Gilman’s narrator breaks the bonds of her condition by defying her husband. In doing so, she gains autonomy. Merging with the woman in the wallpaper, she frees the woman trapped behind it. In this interpretation, we can conclude that by harnessing her imagination, the narrator finally sets herself free.

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Kaylen Baker

With a BA in Literary Studies from Middlebury College, an MFA in Fiction from Columbia University, and a Master’s in Translation from Université Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint-Denis, Kaylen has been working with students on their writing for over five years. Previously, Kaylen taught a fiction course for high school students as part of Columbia Artists/Teachers, and served as an English Language Assistant for the French National Department of Education. Kaylen is an experienced writer/translator whose work has been featured in Los Angeles Review, Hybrid, San Francisco Bay Guardian, France Today, and Honolulu Weekly, among others.

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63 The Yellow Wallpaper Essay Topics & Examples

Looking for The Yellow Wallpaper essay topics? The most famous short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in definitely worth writing about!

  • 🟡 Essay Questions
  • 🏆 Essay Examples & Titles
  • 📒 Essay Prompts
  • 👍 Essay Topics
  • 🖋️ Research Paper Topics

In your essay on The Yellow Wallpaper , you might want to make a character or theme analysis. The key themes of the story are freedom of expression, gender roles and feminism, and mental illness. Another idea is to write an argumentative essay on the story’s historical context.

Find here all you might need to write a paper on Gilman’s short story. The Yellow Wallpaper essay prompts, titles, writing tips, and Yellow Wallpaper essay examples.

🟡 The Yellow Wallpaper Essay Questions

  • Is the Narrator in The Yellow Wallpaper reliable? The narrator of the story has mental health issues. Her slide into madness happens in the middle of the story and speed up at the end. Examine her reliability in the very beginning of the story.
  • Why doesn’t the main character have a name? Through the anonymity, the author might have wanted to show the readers that this is not an isolated event. Anyone who lived in the Victorian era could be the narrator and her husband.
  • How is the Victorian-era medicine represented in The Yellow Wallpaper ? To answer this question, you should research how patients were treated in the Victorian era. As it was already mentioned above, anyone could be in the narrator and her husband’s place.
  • How does The Yellow Wallpaper promote self-expression? Being unable to do the things you love is a frustrating thing. The narrator states a few times how much she enjoys writing but isn’t allowed to do that. Inability to express herself led to her isolation and her madness. In your essay, examine why is self-expression is vital to everyone. You can also investigate whether the narrator uses the wallpaper as a “paper” to write on. Can it be some self-expression? Think about it when you will write your thesis statement.
  • How are gender roles represented in The Yellow Wallpaper ? You can find a lot of examples to support The Yellow Wallpaper essay thesis on subordination. Here are some of them: the narrator stays in the room with the yellow wallpaper, although, she doesn’t want to stay there. Her husband does not allow her to stay in one of the others. He sets plenty of rules she must follow.
  • How do madness and creativity influence each other? You can use the idea that the inability to realize creative needs will lead to madness. You can compare and contrast the lives of many famous artists and writers’ destiny whose lives ended tragically when they were unable to express their ideas through creativity. Are all genius people mad?

🏆 The Yellow Wallpaper Essay Examples & Titles

  • The Yellow Wallpaper Throughout the story, the narrator, together with the rest of the women trapped in the wallpaper, is desperately trying to break loose from the function that the society has assigned for them.
  • Feminist Perspective on “The Yellow Wallpaper” From the interaction between John and Jane, the husband is a typical illustration of a spouse who has mastered the art of absolute control.
  • Unreliable Narrator in Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper In addition, the narration talks about a “yellow wallpaper,” yet the narrator takes long before making an introduction to the subject of the story, hence bringing an element of confusion on what the subject is […]
  • Comparing ‘The Story of an Hour’ and ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ Essay The first similarity between the ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ and ‘The story of an Hour is that the main characters in the stories are looking for freedom in vain.
  • Symbolism in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman Main Points of The Yellow Wallpaper The basic aim of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is to reflect the oppression of women in the 19th century.
  • Feminism in The Yellow Wallpaper In an attempt to free her, she rips apart the wallpaper and locks herself in the bedroom. The husband locks her wife in a room because of his beliefs that she needed a rest break.
  • Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’: Point of View Through the means of it, the readers empathize with the Narrator as they follow the progression of the story. The Narrator’s point of view gives the reader a mental picture of the setting for the […]
  • Gender Roles in The Yellow Wallpaper & Trifles The two texts; the short story ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ by Charlotte Perkins and the play ‘Trifles’ by Susan Glaspell strategically illustrate this claim since they both aim at attracting the reader’s attention to the poor […]
  • Symbols in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by C. P. Gilman Gilman uses such important details as the smell of the wallpaper and shades of color to depict her feelings: “the only thing I can think of that it is like is the color of the […]
  • Loneliness in The Yellow Wallpaper She is beginning to personify the wallpaper in her musings. To nearly the end, she is lucid about people’s roles in her life.
  • Gender Roles in the 19th Century Society: Charlotte Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper However, the narrator’s developing madness can also act as the symbolical depiction of the effects of the men’s dominance on women and the female suppression in the 19th-century society.”The Yellow Wallpaper” was first published in […]
  • Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” as a Gothic Horror Tale She does not, however, trust her own judgment, since, “If a physician of high standing, and one’s own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter…what is one to do?
  • Psychology in Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” The reading of Gilman story’s few initial lines suggests that the reason why the narrator and her husband John decided to spend the summer in a secluded mansion is that this was supposed to help […]
  • Mental Illness as a Theme of The Yellow Wallpaper As it appears from the novel, the reason why the narrator and her husband John decided to spend their summer vacation in a secluded mansion is that this proved beneficial to the narrator’s mental condition.
  • Marriage in The Yellow Wallpaper She has failed to recognize that she is the driver of her own life, and blame should not be put on man. Therefore, she is not able to work her creativity and ends up drawing […]

📒 The Yellow Wallpaper Essay Prompts

  • Literary Criticism of The Yellow Wallpaper by Gilman When she is isolated in the room, she notices a shadow emerging from the wallpaper and creeping over the walls and floor.
  • Analysis of the Gilman’s “Yellow Wallpaper” From the way she describes and interacts with the room, one can notice that she has a dislike and immense hatred towards the room she is confined in.
  • Female Mental Health in Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” The main role of a 19th-century woman was a loving nurturer, serving the needs of her family and obedient to her husband/father.
  • “The Yellow Wallpaper” a Story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman She tries to convince her husband John and one of her minders Jennie, to see the patterns she notices in the wallpaper of her upstairs room, which they, of course, cannot see: the narrator has […]
  • “The Yellow Wallpaper” a Novel by Charlotte Perkins Gilman Thus, the imagery, particularly the woman behind the wallpaper, is a metonymic representation of social boundaries that most women had to face at the time, and a very powerful one at that Gilman clearly knew […]
  • Solitude as a Theme in The Yellow Wallpaper & A Rose for Emily She is an embodiment of a great breakthrough in the fact that she rediscovers her new energy and point of view.
  • A Rose for Emily and The Yellow Wallpaper: Compare & Contrast That is one of the main dangers that people should be aware of. This is one of the main points that can be made.
  • Narrator’s Changing Character in “The Yellow Wallpaper” The story thus portrays the transformative reading potential in that had the narrator failed to realize that the reading has the potential to transform her. The yellow paper helped to transform the narrator in that […]
  • Role of Women in Society: Charlotte P. Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” From the very beginning, it becomes evident that the protagonist of the short story is oppressed and the oppression is depicted symbolically.
  • Madness in “The Yellow Wallpaper” Story by Gilman The source of the conflict and the main cause of the woman’s unfortunate fate is not so much the mental illness itself but, rather, the refusal to recognize it as such.
  • Narrator’s Experience: “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Gilman The narrator is devastated by the fact that she is not allowed to write, as she is sure it would “relieve the press of ideas and rest” her.
  • “The Yellow Wallpaper” Short Story by Gilman In Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the unnamed female protagonist is instructed to rest in isolation and stillness in the large upper room of a remote country house that has bars on the windows […]
  • Charlotte Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper: Themes & Symbols The fact that the patient is the physician’s wife ought to portray a picture of mutual agreements and understandings rather than subjecting one’s decision to the other with a reason for care and protection.
  • Self-Expression in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Gilman The core of the problem related to the protagonist’s health is undefined in the short story. Thus, as the protagonist decides to free the woman in the wallpaper at the end of the story, she […]
  • Psychological Analysis of Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper The article explores the impact of mental illness from the perspective of postpartum/ nervous depression in the woman. 1 7, Web.

👍 The Yellow Wallpaper Essay Topics

  • Chekhov’s “The Lady With the Little Dog” and Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” Malcolm’s magazine article named “The Kernel of Truth” supports the opinion that the explicit and intimate characters’ life description is the most interesting and significant part of the story.
  • Charlotte Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” The main feature of this style is a sense of doom and often exaggeration to show the problems of ordinary people.
  • Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” Story Analysis The magic of the story arises from the innovative transfer of the experience of insanity in the first-person storytelling, showing the evolution of the image of the wallpaper and indicating their symbolic significance and ending, […]
  • “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Gilman and “My Last Duchess” by Browning The narrator soon found herself observing the patterns of the yellow wallpaper of the room she stayed in. Eventually, the narrator began to perform the same behavior she observed from the women in the wallpaper.
  • “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman The value of the composition lies in the progressive moral it brought to the world of literature as well as social views, redirecting the social mind from the old patriarchal foundations to the recognition of […]
  • Interpreting “The Yellow Wallpaper” The theme and problem of woman’s rights looming over the society of that day is demonstrated as the main issue at the core of the story.
  • “Yellow Wallpaper” – A Creepy Shade of Yellow A simultaneously heavy and light-hearted style of the writing is a significant part of the narrative, which demonstrates the sharp contrast between the perception of the main heroine and the rest of the characters.
  • Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour”, Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”, and Walker’s “Everyday Use” It is remarkable that the language of The Story of An Hour speaks for the feelings of protagonist and the plot uncovering.
  • Bradbury’s The Veldt & Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper At the beginning of the story we immediately know that something is wrong with the nursery, and we find out about the African Veldt and how it seems to be stuck in a rather wild […]
  • “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman The way she describes the wallpaper is symbolic of the evolution of her psychological problem: she gets to see herself through the wallpaper.
  • Conflict in ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ by C. Perkins Gilman The topic chosen from the story for analyzing is ‘To what extent is the protagonist of the story you have chosen responsible for the conflict or predicament he or she faces’.
  • Family Relationships in Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper Being the brain and the intellectual reason of the family, the husband wisely guides the ship of his matrimonial unit through all the possible mishaps and traps and takes the necessary precautions in order to […]
  • The Inner Struggles in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins The main element of the story is the gradual lowering of the protagonist into virtual insanity, punctuated with bouts of desperation and desire to be free and independent.
  • Charlotte Gilman’s Short Story “The Yellow Wallpaper” The room’s wallpaper is yellow and this woman becomes obsessed by the color and the patterns of the wallpaper ‘the color is dull and confuses the eyes, provoke studies and when watched closely can lead […]
  • The Insanity of Reading “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gliman John laughed at her about the wallpaper and initially meant to repaper the room but later changed his mind, believing that she was letting it get the better of heer.

🖋️ The Yellow Wallpaper Research Paper Topics

  • ”The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin & ”The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Gilman: Comparing The characters of Louise Mallard in “The Story of an Hour” and the storyteller for “The Yellow Wallpaper” are representative of what the authors want to express about themselves and their current situation.
  • Depression in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Gillman The paper provides a discussion of the short story and analyses the theme of emotion and depression that the main character Stetson Gilman undergoes and her advent into insanity caused by the wrong treatment given […]
  • Families in ”A Rose for Emily” and ”Yellow Wallpaper” In prison with nothing to do, she eventually lost her mind and imagined that she was trapped in the yellow wallpaper.
  • Gender and Illness in Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” Additionally, the main form of psychological imprisonment was the character’s obedience to her husband who did not believe in her sickness and did not allow her to think that it was something more than a […]
  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” Gilman uses horror and suspense in the cautionary tale to demonstrate the effect of the supposed arest cures’ on the mental state of a patient.
  • “The Yellow Wallpaper” and The Laugh of the Medusa The topic of a woman’s voice being silenced by society and becoming heard in writing appears to be among the similar themes of the critical essay “The Laugh of the Medusa” by Cixous and the […]
  • Postpartum Depression Analysis in “Yellow Wallpaper” In reality, postpartum depression is the disease that has to be treated with the help of specific medications and therapies that are appropriate for a patient.
  • Stetson’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” Criticism Since the woman who narrates is alienated from the community and not allowed to work or be engaged in any other activity, she describes her inner thoughts and feelings, and that makes the whole story […]
  • “The Yellow Wallpaper” Story by Charlotte Gilman Temporary nervous depression, as termed by the husband, is a factor that makes the husband prohibits her from roaming in the rest of the house but only upstairs.
  • Male Chauvinism in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman As it appears from the novel, the reason why the narrator and her husband John decided to spend their summer vacation in a secluded mansion is that this was assumed to prove beneficial to the […]
  • “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman Literature Analysis The same way as the woman behind the wall comes out, she also comes out of her slavery, and this shows that women can obtain freedom from social oppression they are undergoing as depicted in […]
  • Woman’s Mental Breakdown: “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman I tried to explain her that she got tired with her own thoughts and her melancholic mood is not a disease, but one of the peculiarities of her temperament and worldview.
  • Prosperity and Social Justice The short story was also the subject of debate when it was first written because it failed to fit in any particular genre at the time.”The Yellow Wallpaper” was mostly considered a horror story when […]
  • The Need for Change in Ragged Dick and The Yellow Wallpaper However, the two authors articulate the importance of such changes that are vital for the development of the personality and the entire society.
  • Depression due to Repression in The Yellow Wallpaper By the end of the same century, the patriarchal view of women as ‘natural born housewives’ and the objects of men’s sexual desire, had lost the remains of its former validity.
  • Women Struggling From Their Fate She gets upset by the sad news of the death of a loved one but when she comes out of the room she seem to have already accepted the situation and adapting to the new […]
  • Feminist Criticism in “The Story of an Hour” and “The Yellow Wallpaper” This is because she is the only one who knew the suffering she was undergoing in that marriage and that she did not always love her husband.
  • Women’s Role in The Yellow Wallpaper, The Awakening, & The Revolt of Mother Sarah then decides to drop the matter because she knows that it is not her place to go against the wishes of her husband.
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Peeling Back the Layers: a Deep Dive into ‘The Yellow Wallpaper

This essay dives into the intriguing depths of “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a haunting tale that intertwines mental illness with societal critique. Set in the 19th century, it follows the story of a woman subjected to a rest cure by her husband, John, in a peculiar room adorned with disconcerting yellow wallpaper. The narrative unfolds through her eyes, revealing her growing obsession with the wallpaper’s chaotic patterns, which she perceives as a trapped woman mirroring her own confinement. The essay highlights how this fixation intensifies, leading to a chilling climax where the line between reality and illusion blurs. Beyond the eerie storyline, the piece underscores the story’s profound commentary on the treatment of women, particularly in mental health, during Gilman’s time. “The Yellow Wallpaper” emerges not just as a spine-tingling story, but as a powerful statement against the oppressive medical practices and societal norms imposed on women. The essay captures the essence of the story – a journey into the psyche, a reflection on historical mistreatment, and a symbol of the struggle for understanding and liberation in women’s mental health. You can also find more related free essay samples at PapersOwl about The Yellow Wallpaper.

How it works

Picture this: a story that grips you with its eerie details and leaves you pondering long after the last word. That’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” for you – Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s masterpiece that’s as spine-tingling as it is thought-provoking. Written way back in 1892, this short story is a rollercoaster ride into the world of a woman’s mind, grappling with mental illness in an era when women’s voices were often hushed.

Let’s set the scene. Our narrator, who remains nameless (talk about being overlooked!), is whisked away to a country house by her husband, John.

He’s a doctor, and he’s got this idea that a summer of doing absolutely nothing – we’re talking no work, no writing, nada – will cure her “nervous depression.” So there she is, stuck in a room that screams ‘creepy’ with its unsettling yellow wallpaper. It’s not just any room; it’s a former nursery with barred windows and a gate at the top of the stairs – more of a prison than a retreat.

Now, let’s talk about this infamous wallpaper. It starts off as an eyesore but quickly morphs into an obsession. Our narrator can’t stand it, yet she can’t look away. It’s a mess of patterns, a jumble of chaos – kind of like her own thoughts. She starts seeing things in it – a trapped woman, shaking the bars, desperate to escape. Sounds familiar? That’s right, it’s a mirror image of her own situation.

As the story unfolds, things go from weird to downright alarming. The narrator, now totally consumed by the wallpaper, starts creeping around the room, becoming one with the woman she sees trapped in the patterns. The climax hits like a freight train – her husband faints dead away when he finds her tearing down the wallpaper, trying to free the woman she believes is stuck behind it.

But here’s the kicker – “The Yellow Wallpaper” isn’t just a spooky tale. It’s a bold statement on how women were treated, especially when it came to their mental health. Gilman herself had a run-in with the infamous ‘rest cure’ prescribed by Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell, and she wasn’t having any of it. This story was her way of showing the world how these so-called treatments were more suffocating than the wallpaper in that room.

In wrapping up, “The Yellow Wallpaper” isn’t just a story; it’s a journey into the past, a critique of how society treated women, and a nod to the inner turmoil that comes with being misunderstood and unheard. The wallpaper in that dreary room symbolizes the constraints and frustrations women faced, a pattern of societal norms they couldn’t escape from. It’s a reminder of how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go in understanding and respecting mental health. So, the next time you glance at wallpaper, remember, there’s more to it than meets the eye, especially if it’s yellow and a bit on the wild side.

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Analysis essay

Home — Essay Samples — Literature — The Story of An Hour — Comparison Between “The Story of an Hour” and “The Yellow Wallpaper”

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Comparison Between "The Story of an Hour" and "The Yellow Wallpaper"

  • Categories: The Story of An Hour The Yellow Wallpaper

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Published: Jan 30, 2024

Words: 639 | Page: 1 | 4 min read

Table of contents

Introduction, similarities between the stories, differences between the stories, a. women's desire for freedom and independence, b. theme of confinement and repression, c. theme of identity and self-discovery, a. contrast the settings of the stories, b. portrayal of male characters, c. contrast the resolutions of the stories.

  • Berkove, Lawrence "Fatal Self-Assertion in Kate Chopin's 'The Story of an Hour'." American Literary Realism, vol. 32, no. 2, 2000, pp. 152-158.
  • Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. "The Yellow Wallpaper." The New England Magazine, 1892.

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short story analysis essay on the yellow wallpaper

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  1. A Summary and Analysis of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's 'The Yellow

    'The Yellow Wallpaper', an 1892 short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, has the structure and style of a diary. ... In the last analysis, 'The Yellow Wallpaper' is so unsettling because it plays with established Gothic horror conventions and then subverts them in order to expose the misguided medical practices used in an attempt to ...

  2. Literary Analysis: The Yellow Wallpaper

    Literary Analysis: The Yellow Wallpaper. "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a captivating and thought-provoking short story that delves into the complexities of mental illness, gender inequality, and societal expectations. Written in the late 19th century, the story remains relevant today and continues to spark discussions ...

  3. Understanding The Yellow Wallpaper: Summary and Analysis

    The Yellow Wallpaper Summary. "The Yellow Wallpaper" is one of the defining works of feminist literature. Writing about a woman's health, mental or physical, was considered a radical act at the time that Perkins Gilman wrote this short story. Writing at all about the lives of women was considered at best, frivolous, and at worst dangerous.

  4. The Yellow Wallpaper: Essay Examples

    Here you'll find a heap of excellent ideas for The Yellow Wallpaper essay. Absolutely free research paper and essay samples on The Great Gatsby are collected here, on one page. We will write a custom essay specifically. for you for only 11.00 9.35/page. 808 certified writers online.

  5. Analysis of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wall-Paper

    Categories: Literature, Short Story. First published in New England Magazine in January 1892, and reprinted by Small, Maynard and Company as a chapbook (1899), "The Yellow Wall-Paper" is Charlotte Perkins Gilman's most famous work. Depicting the nervous breakdown of a young wife and mother, the story is a potent example of psychological ...

  6. Analysis of 'The Yellow Wallpaper' by C. Perkins Gilman

    Catherine Sustana. Updated on March 29, 2020. Like Kate Chopin's " The Story of an Hour ," Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" is a mainstay of feminist literary study. First published in 1892, the story takes the form of secret journal entries written by a woman who is supposed to be recovering from what her husband, a physician ...

  7. Analysis of the Main Themes in "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte

    Overall, the essay provides a clear analysis of the short story "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. It addresses the story's themes and characterizations effectively, but it lacks a clear thesis statement and introduction. The organization is somewhat disjointed, with some paragraphs lacking clear transitions.

  8. The Yellow Wallpaper: Study Guide

    Overview. "The Yellow Wallpaper" is a short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman that was first published in 1892. It is a pivotal work of feminist literature that explores the mental and emotional challenges faced by women in the 19th century. The story is presented in the form of a series of journal entries written by an unnamed woman likely ...

  9. The Yellow Wallpaper: Full Plot Analysis

    Full Plot Analysis. Given the distinct first-person narration and writing style of "The Yellow Wallpaper," the narrator's sense of internal conflict regarding her identity and inability to fulfill social expectations quickly emerges as the driving force of the story. The fact that the narrator herself is not even consciously aware of this ...

  10. The Yellow Wallpaper Essays and Further Analysis

    The structure of The Yellow Wallpaper creates a sense of immediacy and intimacy. The story is written in a journal-style, first-person narrative which includes nine short entries, each entry ...

  11. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman: an analysis

    This analysis of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1892) highlights a long short story (or short novella) considered a feminist literary classic. This story starts with a mystery: the house seems to have "something queer about it." As we read on, it becomes clear that the house is not the only thing strange about this story.

  12. The Yellow Wallpaper Story Analysis

    Charlotte Perkins Gilman's short story "The Yellow Wallpaper" was first published in 1892 in The New England Magazine; many literature scholars consider it a classic of feminist literature. The story contains a critique of the restrictive and counterproductive "rest cure," invented by Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell and popular in the late ...

  13. The Yellow Wallpaper Summary and Analysis

    July 16, 2023. Reading this "The Yellow Wallpaper" summary and analysis will help students gain a solid understanding of a canonical short story. In this article, we'll analyze the historical and biographical relevance, characters, symbols, themes, and more. We'll also consider the story from several critical lenses.

  14. The Yellow Wallpaper Essay

    The Yellow Wallpaper Essay Example 📄 The Yellow Wallpaper Thesis Statement Examples 📜. Here are five examples of strong thesis statements for your essay: 1. "In 'The Yellow Wallpaper,' Charlotte Perkins Gilman portrays the damaging effects of the patriarchy on women's mental health, highlighting the need for autonomy and self-expression." 2.

  15. The Yellow Wallpaper

    ''The Yellow Wallpaper'' is a haunting psychological story and feminist masterpiece by Charlotte Perkins Gilman that was published in 1892. Gilman, a women's rights activist, writer, wife, and ...

  16. The Yellow Wallpaper Essay

    Introduction. The Yellow Wallpaper is a short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman that explains the sad story of a woman suffering from acute postpartum depression. Written during the dying years of the 19th century, The Yellow Wallpaper is characteristic of the mental and emotional treatment that women were subjected to during this period.

  17. The Yellow Wallpaper Critical Essays

    "The Yellow Wallpaper" Charlotte Perkins Gilman (Full name Charlotte Anna Perkins Stetson Gilman) American short story writer, essayist, novelist, and autobiographer.

  18. The Yellow Wallpaper Full Text and Analysis

    The Yellow Wallpaper. The 19th-century treatment for postpartum depression, then called "nervous depression," was a "rest-cure" that called for isolating a woman from her societal duties and forcing her into inactivity. Throughout the short story "The Yellow Wallpaper," author Charlotte Perkins Gilman explores her own experience with ...

  19. 63 The Yellow Wallpaper Essay Topics & Examples

    In your essay on The Yellow Wallpaper, you might want to make a character or theme analysis. The key themes of the story are freedom of expression, gender roles and feminism, and mental illness. ... Find here all you might need to write a paper on Gilman's short story. The Yellow Wallpaper essay prompts, titles, writing tips, and Yellow ...

  20. The Yellow Wallpaper: Critical Analysis Free Essay Example

    Views. 5. In Charlotte Perkins Gilman's 1882 short shorty, The Yellow Wallpaper, the narrator expresses her fear that her husband, John, will send her to Weir Mitchell if her condition does not improve. Although this reference has lost context as times have changed, Gilman was calling out a well-known American physician, Silas Weir Mitchell.

  21. Peeling Back the Layers: a Deep Dive into 'The Yellow Wallpaper

    This essay dives into the intriguing depths of "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a haunting tale that intertwines mental illness with societal critique. Set in the 19th century, it follows the story of a woman subjected to a rest cure by her husband, John, in a peculiar room adorned with disconcerting yellow wallpaper.

  22. Analysis Of Feminism In 'The Yellow Wallpaper' By Charlotte Perkins

    The essay analyzes the short story "The Yellow Wallpaper" using feminist criticism, and it highlights the gender roles and relationships of the main characters. However, the essay could use more specific examples from the text to support its arguments.

  23. Analysis essay (docx)

    The Yellow Wallpaper Analysis Essay Having suffered from depression, author Charlotte Perkins Gilman crafted The Yellow Wallpaper based on her personal experience with a feminist approach. As we follow the protagonist's diary and mental illness journey throughout the short story, we see the struggles she has against the world. The significance of the protagonis t/narrator in The Yellow ...

  24. Analytical on the Symbolism in the "Yellow Wallpaper": [Essay Example

    In "The Yellow Wallpaper," Charlotte Perkins Gilman uses the symbolism of the wallpaper, the narrator's journal, and the nursery to represent the suppression and confinement of women in society in the late 1800s. The wallpaper is interpreted in various ways and can have two meanings, her controlling husband and how the society controls women.

  25. Comparison Between "The Story of an Hour" and "The Yellow Wallpaper

    While "The Story of an Hour" concludes with an unexpected resolution, wherein the protagonist's supposed liberation is abruptly cut short by her husband's return, "The Yellow Wallpaper" ends with the protagonist's tragic fate as her mental state deteriorates, leading to her descent into madness.