File - English 1120

“The Yellow Wallpaper”
Assignment by: Natasha,
Kiran, Caitlyn, Diana, &
Plot Summary
The story begins with a husband and wife touring through a
house that is described in significant and illustrative detail. We
learn that the narrator suffers from an illness involving a nervous
condition and that her husband is a doctor who believes that
maintaining a stress free and inactive lifestyle will cure her. She is
therefore banned from writing, which she feels would act as an
outlet for her anxiety and resolves to continue anyway. In a secret
journal, the narrator begins a description of the house that
revolves around a nursery that she sleeps in, with apparently
disturbing yellow wallpaper. Her life begins to revolve around the
wallpaper where she begins to see the images of creeping women
trying to free themselves from the paper. At the end of the story,
she removes the wallpaper from the room and feels as though she
herself has become one of the women that she had once seen
behind it.
Who is the narrator?
 Narrator is the protagonist
 Young, upper-middle class, married woman
 New mother
 Surrounding characters indicate that she is going through
post-partum depression
What type of narration is used?
 First-person narrative
 The story revolves around the protagonist
Narration: Other Facts
This story is semi-autobiographical. The text reveals that the narrator is
thought to be in a state of depression by her husband and other family
members. It also reveals that she is highly expressive through her personal
diary, which dissociates her from reality. She keeps her thoughts secret most
of time because of her husband expects her to stay in her room and sleep all
the time. As the story progresses, her fascination with the yellow wallpaper
grows and she relates herself more and more to the woman in the
The reader could or could not trust the narrator depending whether you
believe she is in a state of depression and hysteria or not.
If the narrative were from a different view, the reader would not understand
the women’s thought and reasoning because she is so secretive about it. We
would think of her as in a critical state of depression and crazy.
Themes: Significance of
The mental constraints forcefully placed upon the narrator in “The
Yellow Wallpaper” are ultimately what drive her
insane. Throughout the story, the narrator continuously pretends to
hide her anxieties and fears in order for her husband to believe she
fighting against her depression. She is unable to move around (not
allowed to visit her relatives) due to the “resting cure” prescribed to
her. Additionally, the narrator is unable to write, as it entails using
her imagination, which her husband fears will run away with her. It
becomes evident that the narrator’s insanity is a product of the
repression of her imaginative power, not the expression of it. For
example, she keeps a secret journal, explaining it provides a
“relief ” to her mind. In the end, the narrator is liberated and is
finally able to express herself.
School and Tradition
The author’s work is of interest to gender critics, particularly
poststructuralist feminists, as her writing display the roles of
women in 19th century American society. This pertains to
the examination of the social construction of gender and
power dynamics between gender difference/inequality. In
“The Yellow Wallpaper”, gender roles are made clear
throughout the story. For example, her husband is the final
decision maker while the narrator’s role is to be a wife and a
competent mother. Additionally, John treats her like a child,
calling her “blessed little goose” and does not allow her to
visit relatives.
Symbols Analysis
 Yellow wallpaper- the plight of women who are struggling to
free themselves from societal expectation and limits
 Door- barrier between men and women in society
 Plantain- the enslavement of women to a male dominated
society where they have no real choice or freedom
 Key- a source of escape
 Rope- freedom of choice, whether it is to leave the
confinement of her room or end her own life, the rope
represents her ability to make her own decisions
 Bed- the stagnation of women’s rights, their inability to move
forward as long as they remain at home with men in complete
Main character: Narrator
The narrator is a newly married mother who is undergoing care
for depression. She has been very imaginative and as she loses
touch with the outside world, she turns her imagination onto the
house and the wallpaper in order to distract herself from her
frustration. Her frustration stems from being locked up in the
house and forced to undergo a treatment that she does not believe
will help her.
Secondary character: John
Physician and husband of the narrator. He’s a practical man who
prefers fact and figures, and forbids his wife to use her
imagination. He is trying to help her with this treatment - his
intentions aren’t to hurt her. He exerts great authority over the
narrator, as was consistent with the time.
 The story takes place entirely in a country house, more
specifically in the nursery. Takes place in the 1800’s
when it was acceptable to put your wife under a
treatment like this.
 A certain darkness looms over the nursery setting – it is
very somber. The setting drives the plot and the narrators
obsessions and downward spiral into a darker place.
Style & Tone
 Style: Gilman uses a diary entry style of writing which
enhances the main character’s oppression by her
husband which relates to the role of women in 19th
century American society.
 Tone: The narrator expresses an intense, hysterical and
fast-pace tone in paradox to the quiet, large and empty
room that she is in for most of the story. The tone is
created and developed through the narrator’s thoughts
because of the strict first person narration.
Happy studying 