The Importance of Setting in The Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Gilman

The Importance of Setting in The Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Gilman

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The Importance of Setting in The Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Gilman


In the short story "The Yellow Wall-Paper," by Charlotte Gilman, the setting contributes to the narrator's insanity.  When she first sees the house, she loves it.  She thinks the house will be a perfect place to recover from her "nervous condition," but that does not happen because her husband confines her to the bedroom so that her health will improve.  The narrator's mental illness deteriorates to the point of insanity due to her isolation in the bedroom, with only the yellow wallpaper to look at that she considers "repellent, almost revolting; a smoldering unclean yellow,strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight" (106). 

At the beginning of the story, the narrator is moving into a house that she is renting while her house in being renovated.  She describes the house as "The most beautiful place!  It is quite alone, standing well back from the road, quite three miles from the village.  It makes me think of English places that you read about, for there are hedges and walls and gates that lock, and lots of separate little houses for the gardeners and people" (105).  This quote reflects that she considers this house as a place only the noble could live in.  She has only read about homes like this, and she never thought that she would be living in one.  She seems happy that she will be able to rent such a house.  She adds that "There is a delicious garden!  I never saw such a garden--large and shady, full of box-bordered paths, and lined with long grape-covered arbors with seats under them" (105).  This adds to the elegant and royal qualities that the narrator believes the house has.

In the middle portion of the story, the narrator's description ...


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The narrator, already suffering from a "nervous condition," is forced to stay in her bedroom for most of the story.  Her husband does not let her do anything that may take the least bit of energy because she needs to concentrate her energy on getting well.  Her mental condition quickly deteriorates from the original  "nervous condition" to complete insanity due to this isolation.  As the narrator begins to see figures behind the wallpaper, the reader realizes that the wallpaper is a manifestation of her condition.

Work Cited

Gilman, Charlotte.  "The Yellow Wall-Paper."  Literature and the Writing Process.  Eds. Elizabeth McMahan, Susan X Day, and Robert Funk.  4th ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice, 1996.  105-115.

Wagner-Martin, Linda. "The Yellow Wallpaper." Reference Guide to Short Fiction. Ed. Noelle Watson. Detroit: St. James Press, 1994. 981- 982.

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