Charlotte Gilman 's The Yellow Wallpaper

Charlotte Gilman 's The Yellow Wallpaper

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Written to portray the suffering of women during the nineteenth century, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s, The Yellow Wallpaper, in an intriguing semi-autobiographical short story. Gilman uses symbolism to enhance the reader 's understanding of mental illness, in particular, Gilman strives to portray the true hardship of being a woman with a mental illness. To create this meaning, Gilman uses symbols such as deteriorating wall paper, the colour yellow, and the image of bars. Though this short story was written for a nineteenth century audience, it’s message created through symbolism rings true for those trying to understand mental illness today.


One of the first symbols Gilman brings to importance is the wallpaper, which is a direct reflection of the narrators deteriorating health.This is made evident through the evolution of the wallpapers pattern, she fixates on over the duration of her stay in the nursery. Initially, the narrator does not want to stay in the nursery with the wallpaper even stating that, “I never saw a worse paper in my life.”(Gilman, 191) Through the use of this quotation it is revealed to the readers that the decision to stay in the yellow wallpapered room was not the narrators, but is made by her husband, who also serves as her physician. Believing the nursery is the best place for his wife to stay, the narrator 's husband creates the focus for her hysteria. Throughout the short story the narrator 's descriptions of the yellow wallpaper begin to alter to the point where she no longer rejects it, but embraces it’s presence. No longer does she “want to go outside...For outside...everything is green instead of yellow.”(191) The narrator’s reason is replaced by hysteria, which continues to worsen until the wallpap...


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...ay out of this mental cage. Gilman accurately presents the importance of the bars as a symbol in The Yellow Wall-Paper when describing how closed off and encaged a person with a mental illness may be from the world, physically, socially and most significant, mentally.


Perkins Gilman wrote The Yellow Wall-Paper to portray her own suffering as a mentally unstable woman in the nineteenth century, but she achieved much more than that. Through her use of symbolism, Gilman aids the readers knowledge of mental illness without explicitly stating it as such. The use of symbols such as the sickly colour yellow, the encircling bars, and the surrounding of the crumbling wallpaper, portray the severity of mental illnesses. Gilman’s massage of mental illness is brought to life through her vivid use of these symbols, and therefore can be easily understood by any audience.

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