The Yellow Wallpaper

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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