As the narrator presents a dangerous and startling view into the world of depression, Charlotte Perkins Gilman introduces a completely revitalized way of storytelling using the classic elements of fiction. Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” combines a multitude of story elements that cannot be replicated. Her vast use of adjectives and horrifying descriptions of the wallpaper bring together a story that is both frightening and intensely well told. Using the story’s few characters and remote setting, Charlotte Perkins Gilman presents the wallpaper itself as both a representation of the narrator and the story’s theme, as well as a symbol for her descent into the abyss of insanity.
As the story opens, the suspiciously unnamed narrator and her husband, John, temporarily move into a new home (226). The house and property are seen as only positive when the narrator first describes them. She calls it, “The most beautiful place!” (226), and raves about the “delicious gardens” and open yard (227). Although she adores the outside of the home, the interior has a completely different aura. This is the reader’s first glimpse into the astonishingly terrifying setting of “The Yellow Wallpaper.” “There is something strange about the house—I can feel it” (227) she states. Clearly, the narrator is uncomfortable and begins to explain some other ghostly details of the house. Gilman uses the narrator’s uneasiness as a blatant foreshadowing and expands on the eeriness throughout the story.
The narrator’s impending dread, and Gilman’s use of foreshadowing, continues when John decides that they should say in the nursery upstairs (227). Frightening details begin to unfold about the room, including: barred windows,...
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...I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back” (237). With the wallpaper gone, the narrator believes that she will never again be the woman that she once was. John then faints (237), ending the story with a woman who was so overly controlled, and quite frankly oppressed, to the point that she could not take it mentally.
What begins as a simple case of post-partum depression, with the help of an overly dictatorial husband, leads to a severe case of insanity. Charlotte Perkins Gilman not only uses the characters and setting to convey the ghostliness, but uses them to convey the theme of the story. She also uses the wallpaper to represent the narrator’s emotions and to symbolize the women of the 19th century. The narrator’s descent is a direct result of her oppression, and serves as a symbol for the theme of the story, and for women of the time period.
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