The Yellow Wallpaper

Submitted By holymoly112
Words: 1487
Pages: 6

Analysis of The Yellow Wallpaper

The Yellow Wallpaper is a collection of fictional journal entries written by a woman whose husband, also a physician, has confined her to the upstairs bedroom of a house, which he rents for the summer. As part of her “Rest Cure” treatment, she is forbidden from working and has to hide her journal from him so she can recuperate from what he calls a “slight hysterical tendency”, now known as depression, which was a common diagnosis to women in the late 19th century (1). The story describes the effect of confinement on the narrator’s mental health and her descent into psychosis. With nothing to stimulate her mind, she becomes obsessed with the wallpaper: its pattern, its color. By the end of the short story she believes that there are women trapped in the wallpaper and she convinces herself that she is one of them, so she begins slowly stripping the walls of the yellow paper. She refuses to leave the room on the last day of summer when the rent is up; it is the only place she feels safe. The central character in the story narrates her own life. However, the reader never actually learns her name. Because of Gilman’s experience with the rest cure treatment, it is evident that she based the narrator loosely on herself; however, it is apparent that the author wanted not only to express her negative feelings toward the Rest Cure in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” but also to suggest the oppression of the rights of women. Gilman has portrayed the narrator in this way to shed light on how Rest Cure and similar treatments truly affect the subject, and she used the women in the wallpaper to express her personal views on the subjugation of women in an artistic way. After looking into the background of the author, one finds that “The Yellow Wallpaper” is partially autobiographical. Gilman herself was put under the same treatment after having a child, which inspired the character. With the narrator’s descent into madness the reader is taken into the deeper realms of a woman’s psyche and experiences, all while the narrator remains anonymous. This is an accurate reflection of her station in society. The entire story is a narration, so it is particularly difficult not to at least subconsciously evaluate whether the narrator is credible and consistent or not. As the story opens, she is obviously sane, but as her mental state decays, her narration follows suit, bit-by-bit. By the middle of the story she begins to display signs of mental distress. One night after waking up, trying not to awaken her husband, John, she notices something: “The faint figure behind seemed to shake the pattern, just as if she wanted to get out. I got up softly and went to see if the paper did move” (6). Over the following weeks the amount of time that she spends observing the wallpaper increases. Finally, with her time in the house coming to a close, she believes that she has discovered what is so distinctive about the wallpaper: “Through watching so much at night, when it changes so, I have finally found out. The front pattern does move—and no wonder! The woman behind shakes it! Sometimes I think there are a great many women behind, and sometimes only one, and she crawls around fast, and her crawling shakes it all over. Then in the very bright spots she keeps still, and in the very shady spots she just takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard. And she is all the time trying to climb through. But nobody could climb through that pattern--it strangles so; I think that is why it has so many heads. They get through, and then the pattern strangles them off and turns them upside down, and makes their eyes white! If those heads were covered or taken off it would not be half so bad.” (9)

Her treatment has further impaired her “mental illness” to the degree that she actually believes that there are women thrashing around behind the wallpaper. Considering the role that she plays as the story