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The Yellow Wallpaper Analysis

Analysis by: Kris Ng & Deanna Hai

Deanna Hai

on 22 September 2014

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Transcript of The Yellow Wallpaper Analysis

About the Author
Charlotte Perkins Gilman suffered depression and fatigue for several years. Unable to write or have company over three months, it drove her on the brink to insanity. As soon as she felt better, she resumed to continue writing. “The Yellow Wallpaper” is an exaggerated version of her own experience.
By: Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Analysis By: Kris Ng & Deanna Hai
Figure 1:
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Point of View
First person
Autobiographical; journal
The author's writing becomes more disordered as the story develops, for she is allowing her illness/insanity control her
Her punctuation is limited near the end, because her thoughts are all fragmented as her illness progresses
Time and Place
19th century
A time and place when women had no voices and hid behind the shadows of the men. Women were said to have no authority and were treated as visual accessories or a man’s background. Thus, the wallpaper serves as a reminder that women’s domestic duties are nothing but a part of being a man’s background.
"A colonial mansion, a hereditary estate..." (331)
The hereditary estate and mansion is an inference that the narrator's husband & his family is fairly wealthy.
This displays a contrast between her imprisonment within the yellow wallpapered room and the distant beautiful, "delicious" (332) garden and freedom that she is unable to enjoy due to her illness.
The fact that the bedstead is nailed to the floor demonstrates that it is their loyalty in marriage and commitment that traps the narrator and puts restrictions on her.
“Out of one window I can see the garden, those mysterious deep shaded arbors, the riotous old-fashioned flowers, and bushes and gnarly trees. Out of another I get the lovely view of the bay.” (335)
Figure 2:
19th century mansion
Figure 3:
the view of the
garden and freedom
“and this great heavy bed which is all we found in the room, looks as if it had been through the wars.” (336)
“I lie here on this great immovable bed - it is nailed down, I believe ... “ (337)
Her journal / writing
writing is the narrator’s attempt to feel normal or have a sense of normalcy and sanity in her life.
The narrator is in a predicament where she is not heard and where her voice is not valid. This is seen when the husband cannot fully understand his wife's condition, forbidding her to go outside or to write. Despite being told by her husband and sister-in-law to limit the amount of time she uses to write, she continues to write more behind their backs and tries to maintain her sanity while being trapped in the room.
The yellow wallpaper
the central symbol in the short story
It acts as a mental entrapment for the main character. As the narrator tears down the wallpaper in the end, it was revealed that the woman trapped behind the wallpaper was in fact herself. This represents the point where her illness has taken full control over her and leads to her own madness. The wallpaper has been part of her confinement and by her tearing it down, she is freeing herself from that confinement.

"There are things in the wallpaper that nobody knows about but me, or ever will.” (339)
She not only reveals her growing sense of discovery and wonder in the wallpaper but asserts her determination to remain its observer. This is the first hint of the isolation derived paranoia that eventually drove her insane.
“daylight she is subdued, quiet” (341)
“by moonlight, it becomes bars!” (341)
The wallpaper is parallel to the narrator’s sanity. As the wallpaper changes as the day progresses (from daylight to moonlight), so does the character’s attitude towards herself.
Figure 3:
The view from her window
Figure 4:
The journal kept by the narrator in secret
Figure 5:
The protagonist believes that there is a woman trapped behind the wallpaper
The Narrator
“It is very seldom that mere ordinary people like John and myself secure ancestral homes for the summer” (331)
Throughout the story, the narrator's name is not mentioned by any of the characters.
This may represent that she has no identity being married to a man who doesn't understand her condition
From this quote, we can infer that...
the Narrator is a woman
the couple is a part of the middle class society - "mere ordinary people"
Being the first sentence of the short story, it gives the audience the impression that this is about the life of an average, normal everyday couple.
So I take phosphates or phosphites – whichever it is, and tonics, and journeys, and air, and exercise, and am absolutely forbidden to "work" until I am well again. (332)
As the audience reads a little farther, it is revealed that the protagonist has an illness, though the story is quite ambiguous and unclear about what the illness may be. (Depression)

The main character believes that she is indeed not sick at all, however, she does not understand that her mind can be sick while still maintaining a healthy body.
"I've got out at last," said I, "in spite of you and Jennie ... you can't put me back!" (347)
Throughout the story, the narrator is frustrated with everyone and eventually imagines a woman is trapped behind the wallpaper of her room.

In the end, the woman entrapped behind the yellow wallpaper was, indeed, the narrator herself.

Her determination and fascination with the wallpaper eventually led to her insanity to take complete control of her. In this quote, the audience understands that the main character is free from entrapment and is never going back. Maybe this represents that she'd rather pursue a life full of freedom than live in the "background" shadow of her husband.
"John is a physician ... If a physician of high standing, and one's husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary depression, what is one to do?" (331)
John is the narrator's husband
He is perceived to be the story's antagonist character, because he is the catalyst that eventually drives his wife to the brink of insanity.
John is a high standing physician
This ensures the readers that he is fairly rich - rich enough to support his family without the need of having his wife work as well
John is practical in the extreme. He has no patience with faith, an intense horror of superstition, and he scoffs openly at any talk of things not to be felt and seen and put down in figures. (331)
"Such a dear girl ... She is a perfect and enthusiastic housekeeper, and hopes for no better profession." (336)
John's sister ; the narrator's sister-in-law
Jennie is the perfect stereotype of women back in the 19th century. Jennie assumes the limited roles of housekeeping, childcare and other domestic chores, while the narrator rejects these ideas and chooses to rest in her room for the day.
John’s decisions and opinions occupy most of the text as the narrator listens to his wishes.
John embodies a supreme rationality that makes it difficult for the narrator to convince him of her discomfort with her bedroom and the unusual shapes that she sees within the wallpaper.

This personality and beliefs of his fails to make him understand the seriousness of his wife's condition, which eventually leads to his own downfall - allowing his wife to leave.
"Jennie wanted to sleep with me - the sly thing! (345)"
As the narrator slips deeper and deeper into her depression state, Jennie assumes the role of doing all the traditional house chores under John's authority. As a result, the protagonist views Jennie as a threat and spy.
Being confined to an upstairs room in a rented colonial mansion over the summer, the narrator experiences mental instability as she obsesses about the yellow wallpaper covering the walls. Convinced that there is a woman trapped behind it, the protagonist attempts to free her, resulting in the freedom of herself.
Figure 6:
The narrator feels entrapped within the yellow wallpapered room
In “The Yellow Wallpaper”, Gilman suggests that individuals are uniquely affected by the misguided social expectations throughout one’s lifetime.

Written in the 19th century, “The Yellow Wallpaper” is depicted in an era of male dominance. Women were restricted to play a limited role in society. The narrator in the short story creates a second self in order to satisfy her emptiness and desire to regain control of her life, rather than choosing to follow the daily lives of other women, such as Jennie.
Outside sources:
SparkNotes. SparkNotes. Web. 16 Sept. 2014.
Shmoop Editorial Team. "The Yellow Wallpaper Analysis." Shmoop.com. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 16 Sept. 2014. <http://www.shmoop.com/yellow-wallpaper/literary-devices.html>.
Short Story:
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wallpaper. Champaign, Ill.: Project Gutenberg, 1892. Print.
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