Understanding Yellow Wallpaper: Summary and Analysis (2023)

Understanding Yellow Wallpaper: Summary and Analysis (1)

Charlotte Perkins Gilman's classic short story, The Yellow Wallpaper, tells the story of a young woman's gradual descent into psychosis. "The Yellow Wallpaper is often cited as one of the first feminist works.predates women's suffrage in the United States. The author was involved in the first wave of feminism and her other works questioned the origins of the subjugation of women, mainly in marriage. "

"The Yellow Wallpaper" is a widely read work that raises difficult questions about the role of women, particularly in relation to their mental health and their right to autonomy and self-identity. We will go through the summary, themes and symbols of yellow wallpaper, discuss them and provide some important information about the author.

Summary of "The Yellow Wallpaper"

"The Yellow Wallpaper" describes thatDeterioration of Women's Mental Healthwhile she and her family do a "recovery cure" at a rented summer estate. Her obsession with the yellow wallpaper in her room marks her descent into psychosis from her depression throughout the story.

Yellow Wallpaper's narrator begins the story by talking about moving to a beautiful property in the summer.Her husband, John, is also her doctor., and the move is intended in part to help the narrator get over her "illness", which she explains as a nervous breakdown or jitters after the birth of her baby. John's sister Jennie also lives with them and works as a maid.

Although your husband thinks he will be better off resting and not worrying about anything,The narrator has an active imagination and enjoys writing.. He discourages his astonishment with the house and dismisses his interests. She mentions her baby more than once, although there is a nurse taking care of the baby and the narrator herself is too nervous to take care of her.

The narrator and her husband move into a large room that hasugly yellow wallpaperwhich the narrator criticizes. She asks her husband if they can switch rooms and go downstairs and he declines. The longer he remains in the room, the more the narrator's fascination with the hideous wallpaper grows.

After welcoming a family on the 4th of July, the narrator expresses feeling even worse and more exhausted. You are having trouble carrying out your daily activities and your mental state is deteriorating. John encourages her to get more rest, and the narrator hides her writing from him because he disapproves of her.

In the period between the 4th of July and your departureThe narrator apparently freaks out over the yellow wallpaper.; She sleeps all day and stays up all night looking at him believing he will come to life and the patterns will change and move. He then begins to believe there is a woman in the wallpaper, changing the patterns and watching her.

A few weeks before they leave, John is going to spend the night in town and the narrator wants to sleep alone in her room so she can look at the wallpaper undisturbed. She blocks Jennie andI think you see the woman in the wallpaper. John returns, desperately trying to get in, and the narrator refuses; John manages to enter the room and finds the narrator crawling on the floor. She claims that the woman on the wallpaper is finally gone, and much to her surprise, John collapses.

Understanding Yellow Wallpaper: Summary and Analysis (2)

Background for "The Yellow Wallpaper"

The author, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, was a professor of social reform, and her faith and philosophy play an important role in the creation of The Yellow Wallpaper and the themes and symbolism of the story. "The Yellow Wallpaper" also influenced later feminist writers.

(Video) The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman | Summary & Analysis

charlotte perkins-gilman

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, known as Charlotte Perkins Stetsman when married to her first husband, was born in 1860 in Hartford, CT. Young Charlotte considered herself smart, but her mother was not interested in her education and Charlotte spent a lot of money on the library.

Charlotte married Charles Stetsman in 1884, and their daughter was born in 1885. She suffered from severe postpartum depression after giving birth to her daughter Katharine.Her battle with postpartum depression and the doctors she treated during her illness inspired her to write The Yellow Wallpaper.

The couple separated in 1888, the year Perkins Gilman wrote his first book,Art treasures for the home and fireplace.He later wrote The Yellow Wallpaper in 1890 while in a relationship with Adeline Knapp and living apart from her lawful husband. "The Yellow Wallpaper" was published in 1892, and in 1893 he published a book of satirical poetry.In this world of ourswhich made him famous.

Eventually, Perkins Gilman officially divorced Stetsman and ended his relationship with Knapp. She married her cousin Houghton Gilman,and claimed to be happily married.

Perkins Gilman earned his living as aSpeaker on women's issues, labor issues and social reforms. He has traveled throughout Europe and the United States as a speaker and founded his own magazine,O precursor.


"The Yellow Wallpaper" was first published in January 1892New England Magazine.

During Perkins Gilman's lifetime, the role of women in American society was severely restricted, both socially and legally. At the time of publication, women were stilltwenty-six years to acquire the right to vote.

This view of women as childish and weak meant that they were discouraged from having control over their lives.Women were encouraged or forced to yield to their husbands' opinions under all circumstances., including financial, social and medical. The writing itself was revolutionary as it created a sense of self and was considered too much for inherently fragile women.

Women's health has been a particularly misunderstood area of ​​medicine, as women were seen as nervous and hysterical beings and discouraged from doing anything to "bother" them further. The prevailing wisdom at the time was that rest would cure hysteria, when indeed it did.The constant boredom and lack of goals likely made the depression worse..

Perkins Gilman used her own experiences of her first marriage and postpartum depression as inspiration for The Yellow Wallpaper, which illustrates how a woman's lack of autonomy is detrimental to her mental health.

after its launchPerkins Gilman sent a copy of The Yellow Wallpaper to the doctor who prescribed his rest regimen.for her postpartum depression.

Understanding Yellow Wallpaper: Summary and Analysis (3)

Characters from "The Yellow Wallpaper"

Although there are only a few characters in the story, they all play an important role. As the story revolves around the narrator's mental decline, her life relationships are essential to understanding why and how she got to this point.


The storyteller

The narrator of the story is a young woman from the upper middle class. She is witty and a natural writer, though she refrains from exploring that part of herself. She's a new mom and she's destined to have it."hysterical tendencies"or suffer from nervousness. Her name may be Jane, but it's unclear.


John is the narrator's husband and doctor. He restricts her activity as part of her treatment. John is extremely practical anddiminishes the imagination and emotions of the narrator. He seems concerned for her well-being, but thinks he knows what's best for her and won't let her do anything.


Jennie is John's sister who works as a housekeeper for the couple. Jennie seems concerned for the narrator, as evidenced by his offer to sleep with her in the yellow paper room.Jennie seems satisfied with her domestic role.

Main Themes of "The Yellow Wallpaper"

From what we know about the author of this story and from the interpretation of the text, some themes clearly emerge from the analysis of a yellow wallpaper. "The Yellow Wallpaper" was a serious literary work that dealt with women's issues.

The role of women in marriage.

Wives were expected to be submissive and completely obedient to their husbands.assume exclusively domestic duties within the home. Upper-middle-class women, like the narrator, can walk without leaving home for long periods of time. History shows that this arrangement resulted in the reduction of women to a state of naivety, dependency and ignorance.

John believes he has the right to determine what's best for his wife, and that authority is never questioned. Olessens your worries, both concrete and derived from your depression, and is told, so ignore her and "laugh at her" when she says, "that's to be expected in marriage". He doesn't take her concerns seriously and makes all the decisions about her life.

As such, you have no say in your life, including your own health, and neither can you protest.

Perkins Gilman, like many others, clearly disagreed with this state of affairs and wanted to show the detrimental effects of women's lack of autonomy.

identity and self-expression

Throughout the story, the narrator is prevented from doing the things she wants and the things that come naturally to her, like writing. On more than one occasion,She runs to put her diary away when John approaches..

She also forces herself to pretend she is happy and content to give the impression that she is recovering, which is worse. She wants to be a good wife, depending on how she's chosen, but she has a hard time fitting in, especially when she has so little real work to do.

The narrator is forced into silence and submission by the cure of rest, andurgently needs an intellectual and emotional outlet. However, he doesn't get one, and it's clear this arrangement is taking its toll.

the rest heals

The rest cure was commonly prescribed to women who were "on edge" during this period in history. perkins gilmanhave strong opinions about the benefits of rest healing, self prescribed. John's insistence that the narrator take "air" at all times, and his insistence that she not do anything that requires mental or physical stimulation, is clearly pernicious.

The storyteller is also discouraged from activities, whether they be domestic activities like cleaning or babysitting, as well as things like reading, writing and exploring the grounds of the house.She is suffocated and confined physically and mentally, which only exacerbates her condition..

(Video) The Yellow Wallpaper: Crash Course Literature 407

Perkins Gilman condemns convalescent healing in this story, pointing out its deleterious effects on women and positing that women need mental and physical stimulation to be healthy and that they should be free to make their own decisions about their health and lives.

Understanding Yellow Wallpaper: Summary and Analysis (4)

The analysis of the yellow wallpaper: symbols and symbolism

Symbols are a way for the author to add meaning to the story and provide clues about themes and characters. There are two main symbols in yellow wallpaper.

the yellow wallpaper

This is, of course, the most important symbol in history. The narrator is instantly fascinated and disgusted by the yellow wallpaper, her understanding and interpretation fluctuating and intensifying as the story progresses.

The narrator turns to the yellow wallpaper as something to analyze and interpret because she has nothing else to think about or other mental stimuli. The pattern eventually comes into focus as a bar.then he sees a woman within the pattern. This represents the feeling of being trapped.

At the end of the story, the narrator believes that the woman has come out of the wallpaper.This indicates that the narrator is finally completely absorbed in her psychosis., and become one with the house and tamed discontent.


Although Jennie does not play a major role in the story, she does present a slide for the narrator. Jennie is John's sister and governess, and the narrator believes that she is content to lead a domestic life. Although he often expresses his gratitude for Jennie's presence in his home,He clearly feels guilty about Jennie's ability to run the household smoothly..

Irony in Yellow Wallpaper. Free wallpapers and backgrounds

The yellow wallpaper makes good use of dramatic and situational irony. Dramatic literary device in which the reader knows or understands things that the characters do not. Situational irony is when the character's actions are intended to do one thing, but are actually doing something else. Here are some examples.

For example, when the narrator first enters the room with the yellow wallpaper,she thinks it's a kindergarten. However, the reader can clearly see that the space could easily have been used to accommodate a mentally unstable person.

The best example of situational irony is the way John continues to prescribe the rest cure, significantly worsening the narrator's condition. He encourages her to lie down and sleep more after meals, which keeps her awake and alert at night when she has time to sit and examine the wallpaper.

abstract yellow wallpaper

"The Yellow Wallpaper" is one of the formative works of feminist literature. Writing about a woman's health, whether mental or physical, was considered a radical act at the time Perkins Gilman wrote this story. Writing about women's lives was considered frivolous at best and dangerous at worst. If you look at the analysis of The Yellow Wallpaper, the story is an important insight into the role of women in marriage and society, and will likely be a mainstay of the feminist literary canon.

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Looking for more expert guides on literary classics?Keep reading our guidesDas Fass AmontilladoyO Grande Gatsby.

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(Video) The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman - Short Story Summary, Analysis, Review

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Understanding Yellow Wallpaper: Summary and Analysis (5)

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About the author

Carrie holds a BA in Writing, Literature and Publishing from Emerson College and is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts. He has worked in book publishing for several years and believes that books can open up new worlds. He loves reading, nature and learning new things.

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(Video) The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman | Plot Summary


What is the analysis of The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

"The Yellow Wallpaper" details the deterioration of a woman's mental health while she is on a "rest cure" on a rented summer country estate with her family. Her obsession with the yellow wallpaper in her bedroom marks her descent into psychosis from her depression throughout the story.

What is the analysis of the ending of The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

The narrator crawls around the room, shouting out that she is finally out. She believes to have set the woman behind the wallpaper free. The symbolic meaning of the ending highlights the suppressive treatment of women in the 19th century. The actions of Jane's husband and doctors lead to her losing her sanity.

What is the plot summary of The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

The Yellow Wallpaper is a short psychological drama about a young woman, Charlotte who is suffering from postnatal depression. Copped up in a small room with nothing to occupy her mind but the hideous yellow wallpaper, Charlotte obsesses about the mysterious patterns in paper and begins to loose her mind.

What is the central message of Yellow Wallpaper? ›

The Yellow Wallpaper enlightens the reader on women's health, motherhood, mental breakdown and its treatment, as well as feminism and gender relations in late 19th-century America.

What is the main conflict of The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

Major Conflict The struggle between the narrator and her husband, who is also her doctor, over the nature and treatment of her illness leads to a conflict within the narrator's mind between her growing understanding of her own powerlessness and her desire to repress this awareness.

What does the color symbolize in The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

In "The Yellow Wallpaper," yellow symbolizes the narrator's illness as well as the sickness of the oppression she endures as well as her growing awareness of the oppression.

What does the baby in The Yellow Wallpaper symbolize? ›

The baby in "The Yellow Wallpaper" symbolizes what society expected of women in the late 19th-century, to be women and mothers.

What is the irony in The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

The central irony of "The Yellow Wallpaper" is that the rest cure treatment prescribed for the main character does the opposite of what the treatment is intended to do. Rather than help her recover from what is likely postpartum depression, the treatment causes her illness to develop into full psychosis.

What does the woman behind the wallpaper represent? ›

The woman behind the pattern was an image of herself—she has been the one “stooping and creeping.” Further, she knows that there are many women just like her, so many that she is afraid to look at them. The question she asks is poignant and complex: did they all have to struggle the way I did?

What is the climax of Yellow Wallpaper? ›

In "The Yellow Wallpaper," the climax of the story was marked when the narrator was fully aware of the woman's existence on the wall. The narrator had seen the woman wandering around and could not stop thinking... See full answer below.

What happens to the yellow paper at the end of the story? ›

By the end, the narrator is hopelessly insane, convinced that there are many creeping women around and that she herself has come out of the wallpaper—that she herself is the trapped woman. She creeps endlessly around the room, smudging the wallpaper as she goes.

What happens to the husband at the end of the story The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

The story ends with her husband banging on the door to be let in, fetching the key when she tells him it's down by the front door mat, and bursting into the room – whereupon he faints, at the sight of his wife creeping around the room.

What is the social issue in The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

The social issue that plays a central role in "The Yellow Wallpaper" is the treatment of women in late 19th-century society, particularly by the medical field. The woman in the story is forced to endure the rest cure, a treatment created by Silas Weir Mitchell to treat nervous conditions in women but not in men.

Why does John faint at the end of The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

The reason for John to faint at the end of the story is his shock provoked by the wife's mental state. He prescribes the “rest therapy” to eliminate any distressing events that could worsen his wife's depression.

Why does the narrator rip the wallpaper off? ›

Because the narrator has no means to free herself from her submissive relationship with John, she finds a kind of liberty in tearing at the wallpaper to release her counterpart in the walls.

What are two symbols in The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

The most obvious motif in the story is the wallpaper, it takes centre stage and could even be described as a character in itself. It's importance lies in its symbolism, it represents the society of the time, the narrators desire for creative expression and her obsession with the paper symbolises madness.

What does her illness symbolize in The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

In "The Yellow Wallpaper," the illness of the main character represents her deviation from the accepted norms for women's behavior in the late 1800s. She is diagnosed with neurasthenia, a common diagnosis of that time, which is defined as nervous excitability.

What mental illness does Jane have in The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

She displays her depressive mood within the story by crying all day at nothing. She displays her schizophrenic symptoms when she experiences delusions, hallucinations, and social withdrawal.

What does her room symbolize in The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

The room that the narrator inhabits is falling apart, and symbolizes the impending decay of the woman's mental state.

What is the satire in The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

Pivotal in The Yellow Wallpaper's narration is its ability to satirically bifurcate sanity and insanity—a satire that is based on what is deemed wrong in a society dominated by masculine authoritative beliefs.

What is the woman doing at the end of The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

At the end of the story, as her husband lies on the floor unconscious, she crawls over him, symbolically rising over him. This is interpreted as a victory over her husband at the expense of her sanity.

Who is the monster in The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

Though John seems like the obvious villain of “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the story does not allow us to see him as wholly evil. John's treatment of the narrator's depression goes terribly wrong, but in all likelihood he was trying to help her, not make her worse.

Why did the woman in The Yellow Wallpaper go crazy? ›

Being isolated and having post-partum depression made the narrator go crazy, and without the yellow wallpaper there would not be something to express her mental state. From walking along the wall tearing off wallpaper, the reader can tell that the narrator has fully lost her sanity.

What figure of speech is in The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

Gilman employs personification—a figure of speech in which the author attributes human characteristics to a thing, an animal, or an idea—frequently throughout “The Yellow Wallpaper.” The narrator constantly describes the wallpaper as a living entity and endows it with human characteristics.

What does the baby symbolize in The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

The baby in "The Yellow Wallpaper" symbolizes what society expected of women in the late 19th-century, to be women and mothers.

What mental illness is in The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper is a short story published in 1892. The story details the struggles of Jane, the wife of a physician, who suffers from postpartum psychotic delirium. She is locked in a room, hidden from the rest of the world, under the pretense of a “rest-cure” prescribed by her husband.


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