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The Yellow Wallpaper

"Full screen, please!"

Rachel Chiong

on 22 November 2012

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Transcript of The Yellow Wallpaper

The Yellow Wallpaper [Summary] The Narrator, who remains unnamed, takes a therapeutic retreat with her husband at a rental mansion to treat her postpartum psychosis. The room she occupies is covered with worn, yellow wallpaper, which she gradually obsesses over. At the end of the story she goes insane and she believes that she's part of the wallpaper. “...a term that covers a group of mental illnesses with the sudden onset of psychotic symptoms following childbirth.” - Wikipedia [Exposition] When the Narrator adjusts to her room, she finds the wallpaper bothersome. [Rising Action] Her imagination begins to latch onto the wallpaper. She becomes protective of the wallpaper. She confirms her own hallucinations. [Climax] The day before she and her husband moves out of the mansion, the Narrator, after careful planning, tears down the wallpaper. Inevitably, with the premonition that all events had lead to this, she finally goes insane. She asks herself and anyone listening, “I wonder if they all come out of that wall-paper as I did?”, believing she is the sub-pattern trapped in the wallpaper that she was searching for all along. [Hyperactive imagination, when deprived of outlets, cannot be contained, and will go to liberating extremes.] [Irony] Her husband, who is a professional physician, refuses her self-diagnosis “that congenial work, with excitement and chance" would improve her better than his cure. If only he had listened and offered her another past-time rather than leaving her with the wallpaper she most likely would never have gone insane. Instead she was confided to passiveness. [Foreshadowing] The Narrator admits susceptibility to her own imagination. Gazing out the window from the attic she fancies "people walking in these numerous paths.” In another passage she reminisces her younger years when she would entertain herself by personifying intimate objects. This aggravates the possibility that the wallpaper could be the Narrator's next victim. [Parallel] Subconsciously, as the Narrator translated the wallpaper she created a self-insert. The woman she dreams up symbolizes herself. As the creeping lady is trapped behind strips of peeling yellows, the Narrator is also confined physically and emotionally. First, in an attic separated from her friends and family, and then dispossessed of activities to exercises her deprived mind. The wallpaper acts as a medium between the Narrator and herself. Because of this "The Yellow Wallpaper" as a title ideally encompasses all the elements of a story that revolves solely around the Narrator. This Florence + the Machine song describes an obsession similar to the one in 'The Yellow Wallpaper'. The difference is that in the song the singer's guilt went out of control, while in the story it was the Narrator's imagination.
According to the song, a bird plays as the singer's conscience and echoes her shame until she kills it. After trying to confine her guilt, the singer enters a state where her deed haunts her awake or dreaming. It builds up inside her and finally pours out of her own mouth. As a parallel the wallpaper relays to the Narrator all the fantasies and stories her mind conjures. However, after days of torment, she tears down the wallpaper and then believes she was part of it all along.
Both express the message that drives like imagination or guilt when forced into a cage will inevitably escape and create more damage than they originally would have if they had been liberated in the first place. ["Bird Song" by Florence + the Machine] " " The first person point-of-view creates an impact that the other two perspectives cannot accomplish. It is far more startling to be inside a mind in conflict with itself than to observe the struggle from afar. [Narrator vs. Her Illness] [Narrator vs. Wallpaper] [Narrator vs. John] Her husband complains that her "habit of story-making" would eventually provoke her into harmful fantasies. The Narrator, herself, confesses that when she was young she would "get more entertainment and terror out of blank walls and plain furniture than most children could find in a toy store". Despite her husband's instructions and then her sister-in-law's constant reminders, the Narrator insists she knows what's best for herself, and continues to indulge in her journal and the wallpaper.
John, the Narrator's husband, is pragmatic. For years as a physician he has studied and practiced with this mindset. He prohibits any indulgence towards his wife's fantasies' and excuses them as illogical.

He kept the wallpaper in her room, refusing to humor her when she believed it affected her negatively. Imagine the harm that could have been evaded if he had listened and taken the paper down right away. At the beginning the Narrator hated the wallpaper, condemning it "one of those sprawling flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin". She took care to expound on its disgusting color with many unflattering adjectives in her journal.
However, the wallpaper was like unpleasant food. It was not enjoyable, but to the Narrator's underfed imagination, it was necessary.
As an inanimate object, it essentially did no harm to her. Instead it acted like a mirror. Every damaging, hallucinatory hurt the Narrator 'received' from the wallpaper was originally her own ideas and thoughts reflecting off the wallpaper and back at her. [First Person] ["The Yellow Wallpaper"] [The Narrator] After making introductions, the Narrator mulls over her situation, especially the intriguing wallpaper in her room. The amount of detail used to describe it ignites the reader's interest. Surrounding suspicions only confirmed by the story's obvious title point to the wallpaper as a main role in the plot. Confined in her room all day, the Narrator finds that besides her journal the wallpaper is entertaining too. She discovers “where the pattern lolls like a broken neck and two bulbous eyes stare at you upside down.” Then she glimpses a "sub pattern" beneath the tattered yellows which teases both her and the reader into the notion that the wallpaper is more than tasteless decoration. "Life", the Narrator claims, "is very much more interesting" now that she has a goal to preoccupy her time. The story, as well, has become increasingly interesting for the anxious reader, since the Narrator, who is so determined to reveal the wallpaper's secret's, begins to hide her findings from her husband and sister-in-law. Finally, the Narrator reaches a conclusion: “The front pattern DOES move- and no wonder! The woman behind shakes it!” She claims sighting the woman outside from her window creeping up and down the trails. These frenzied and yet rationalized theories the Narrator develops torments the reader into a foreboding that this story cannot possibly end well. She is the yellow wallpaper. Imaginative Strong-Willed The conflicts between her husband and herself was intensified by her illness. No matter how often her husband denied the legitimacy of her disease and the Narrator convinced herself that he was right, the results were still there. The Narrator's illness kept her from being a mother and a wife. She was in a frustrating position. Her depression deepened by the obvious façade her family played at being normal, escalated cravings to feed her mind with fantasies that liberated her from real life even if it was for a little while. watch!
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