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Symbolism in The Yellow Wallpaper

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Nisreen Moghrabi

on 11 March 2015

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Transcript of Symbolism in The Yellow Wallpaper

the Tearing of the Wallpaper
The Moonlight
Jane constantly refers to the moonlight and her admiration of it thorough the story, she also only allows herself to creep during this time
As a universal symbol moonlight has always been associated with women (considering the idea of a monthly cycle)
Contextual this represents freedom from social accepted behavior.
"It must be very humiliating to be caught creeping by daylight"
this implies that one should only "creep" by moonlight when no one is watching. The daylight also may represent adherence to norms; when a woman must act ladylike.
Considering her husband isn't present during moonlight her mind is free to roam free from the male influences that control the daytime.

The bed
The Garden
By: Nisreen Moghrabi
Symbolism in The Yellow Wallpaper
"then i peeled off all the paper i could reach standing on the floor. It sticks horribly and the patter just enjoys it! All those strangled head and bulbous eyes shriek with derision"

The narrator is going completely crazy, she is ripping the wallpaper in attempts to release the woman behind it

The ripping of the wallpaper is symbolic of the narrator freeing not only herself but all women from the roles that confine them. When it describes the women behind it they have "strangled heads" and "bulbous eyes" considering this we can infer that these women were brainwashed and blind, Jane comments the they "shrieked derision" this means not all of them wanted to be free some of them supported gender roles because they could not see the full potential of their sex. As Jane rips the wallpaper down she is attempting to free herself from.

the the story Jane describes the garden that she sees outside her window and her desire as well as fear of it.
The garden is said to have represented the possibilities untapped potential of the female sex.
throughout the story as the protagonists brain ventures deeper out of her comfort zone her description of the garden changes
in the first page she says
"their is a delicious garden! I never saw such a garden"
but as the story progresses we see it as loathsome and frightening, this shows fear of discovery, she knows her current mindset is frowned upon so she is afraid of her own thoughts and she wishes she could be like the majority of the women of her time who accepted gender roles but she is not. This is Jane's fear of discovery.

"I lie here on this great immovable bed--it is nailed down"
The Narrator describes the bed as immovable, heavy and old which can lead us to assume she is referring to the males stubbornness to stick to their gender roles. As well as the idea that the bed, although antique still services those who are unable to move it. Also a bed can typical be a place of intimacy and male dominance the sexual physical subjugation between the narrator and her husband which later result in the child that caused her mental illness. Jane also has to creep around the bed because its nailed down so firmly
animal dehumanized by the subjugation
The Windows
" i even said so to John on moonlight evening but he said what i felt was a
and shut the window

Literal: john closes the windows because he feels a draft, he also has them bared up because he doesn't want her to jump out.

symbolic: when her husband shut the window he is shut out the possibility of the female sex, when the narrator is admiring the moonlight (which is said the symbolize the uncovering of socialite judgement) he immediately disallows her to have thoughts of Independence but "shutting" the window and shutting out her ideas.

"i should judge;for the windows barred"

when the windows are bared up it implies that she can see them but she cant go through, she can see her potential but she cannot reach it because of the boundaries set by men.
Literal: Jennie is the "woman" of the house she is helping Jane by doing most of the housework she cant because of her illness.

"There comes John's sister. Such a dear girl and she is , and so careful of me!"
"she is a perfect and enthusiastic housekeeper, and hopes for no better profession"

Symbolic: Jennie is symbolic of the "ideal woman" and the mold women at the time were expected to fill. Jane wishes see wanted to be like Jennie but she also finds her as a threat of female independence we see this when Jane snaps at her while she is looking at the wallpaper. Throughout the entire story Jennie is to afraid to stand up for herself and does whats expect of her. This character is one of the women that are not helping the movement but standing against it.

The Woman in the Wallpaper
"I can see a strange, provoking, formless sort of figure, that seems to skulk about behind that silly and conspicuous front design."

literal: the narrator sees a figure moving in the wallpaper she finds out the figure is a woman struggling behind the paper.
"a woman stooping down and creeping about behind that paper"
"a woman who, by daylight, is "subdued, quiet"

Symbolic: the woman is symbolic of not only the protagonist, but the oppression of female domestication in general. the narrator describes the woman as suffocating behind it this can mean that women are not taken seriously and their ideas are drowned out buy men.
The Narrators use of the word "One"
throughout the text the narrator tends to refer to herself as "one" instead of "I"
Literary this word choice may be interpreted as just Jane speaking to her journal as an audience

the symbolic meaning behind this is the narrator separating herself from her desires, Jane want to feel the desire to be like most of the other women in her time but she doesn't. The narrator is attempting to convince herself that she isn't connected to the feelings shes experiencing.
The Mansion
Diction Placement
The Color Yellow
This is arguable, however there are contradicting ideas regarding Gilman's choice of the color yellow.
"The color is repellent, almost revolting; a smoldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight. It is a dull yet lurid orange in some places, a sickly sulfur tint in others”
The color yellow can mean a variety things psychologically scientifically and even personal. General yellow has been a color commonly associated with the sun making it nostalgic of happiness, warmth, and joy if this was the authors outlook then it certainly was a tool of irony, another outlook may be the idea of something once white "yellowing" over long periods of time symbolic of how long the struggle for equality has been for women. Personally i believe that as yellow is know scientifically to be a color of fatigue; it is the most harsh on the eyes in response to the fact that it reflects more light than most other colors. we see our protagonist fatigues throughout the whole story when she strains herself following the pattern around all day and night.
One of the more subtle hits of symbolism can be found when looking at the order the author places her words. "people like John and myself" "for my sake, for our child's sake, as well as for your own"
in the two examples the narrator places john before herself, as well as her son. This establishes that the narrator as a female knows she ranks below males. As society at the time pressured women into beliving they were of less value than men they could not accept the idea that they could ever be of equal status of a male not even a newborn baby. the placing of words in the story emphasizes the idea that woman felt inferior to men.
The Nursery
The Narrator believes that she is being kept in a nursery thought the story "so we took the nursery at the top of the house." She describes in a different light with barred windows, ripped wallpaper, and rings in the walls..she is clearly not in a nursery however she convinces herself she is. This is symbolic of the way john, and all men treat her as a child. throughout the story her husband is constantly giving her degrading nicknames like "little goose" "little girl" or "little lamb" implying that her ideas are just as irrelevant as a little child.
The Mansion
Jane describes a colonial mansion shes staying at for the summer she describes the outside as "the most beautiful place" she talks about the hedges and gates and the garden but when she starts to describe the inside it isn't as pleasant she says although she mentions the" pretty old-fashioned chintz hangings" and rose covered piazza windows she also mentions that "there is something strange about this house" and calls it big and empty. when she describes the attic she calls it "atrocious" This shows the complexity she feels towards the house. The mansion is symbolic of how society has shaped us; beautiful on the outside and confusing on the outside. the mansion attic is corrupt and nightmarish however is it tucked away from the outside people see a perfect house they assume housing the perfect family inside we see the corrupt demented truth that is Jane's madness, the truth that we have become so well at hiding.
Jane Creeping Over John
In the text the daylight is the time when john goes out to work, Mary and Jennie are awake and doing all of their duties as women and caretakers

The daylight also may represent adherence to norms; when a woman must act ladylike.

"By daylight she is subdued, quiet. I fancy it is the pattern that keeps her so still."

this quote supports the idea that the daylight is symbolic of the veil that covers women's true desires and potential
The Daylight
at the end of the story the narrator describes the scene where john has fainted and Jane creeps over him
"now why would that man have fainted? but he did and right across my path by the wall, so that i had to creep over him every time!"

this scene is symbolic of the concept that women are taken into seldom consideration and every woman is treated in this manner therefore she will be driven into her own world of insanity where she continues "creeping" over all who try to control her.
The pattern in the Wallpaper
as the story progresses the narrator talks about the changes in the wallpaper's pattern

"the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide--plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard of contractions."
these changes she study can be symbolic of the protagonist's mind set during this time and the way women were perceived during the 19th century. The wallpaper cant be categorized into any particular "type". It contains patterns, angles, and curves that all contradict one another just like Jane and many other women's emotions during this time. the pattern changes can be interpreted as the paradox living inside the female brain; their complex desire of wanting to conform to society and fulfill the housewife roll but also wanting liberation and freedom at the same time.
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