The Yellow Wallpaper

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The yellow wallpaper

The Yellow Wall-Paper,” by Charlotte Gilman Perkins, can be read as a

simple story of a young woman suffering from postpartum depression.

Her husband is unsympathetic to her needs, her doctor refuses to

acknowledge her serious illness, and her emotional state declines as a

result of being forced to stay inside her room in the middle of her

vacation with no company except the yellow wallpaper. But, on a deeper

level, it is this room and the wallpaper that is pasted all over it

that is symbolic and allows the narrator to materialize her depression

and slowly decline into insanity.

In the beginning of the story, the narrator describes herself as

having “temporary nervous depression -- a slight hysterical tendency.”

(169) The narrator is well aware of her condition, and it is apparent

that she is also aware of what her condition may lead to. But, if it

weren’t for certain imprisoning aspects of her environment, her

condition might have never progressed to complete insanity. For

example, the windows of the narrator’s room become a materialization

of the world that squeezes her into the tiny jail of her own mind, and

the wallpaper represents this state of that mind. The room was once

used as a nursery, and thus its environment makes the narrator feel

like a child, like a being who is taken less seriously than she should

be. She is in a room where “the windows are barred for little

children, and there are rings and things in the walls.” (170) The

protective bars on the windows are symbolic of the protectiveness of

her husband, John, and his well-meaning but ultimately unhelpful

suggestions. The narrator is a prisoner in her place of rest, and her

husband is but the jailer, watching over ...

... middle of paper ...

...per as I did?” (180) She believes

that by locking herself in her symbolic physical prison and tearing

off the wall-paper that is symbolic of her mental state, she is

releasing herself from all of the expectations of her husband and all

the depression she felt throughout the story.

The narrator’s physical environment and the symbolism it contained

allowed her to materialize her depression and descend into insanity.

It is clear that it is possible to view the wallpaper as a reflection

of the narrators state of mind and the fact that she took on the

character of the woman in the wallpaper to allow herself to break free

of the ties that bound her. The confinement of the barred room and the

disturbingly vivid wallpaper proved not only to be complimentary to

the story, but also to foreshadow the narrator’s escape from

depression into a new sphere of insanity.

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