The Yellow Wallpaper : Oppression Of The Narrator And The Progression Of Her Psychological Deterioration

The Yellow Wallpaper : Oppression Of The Narrator And The Progression Of Her Psychological Deterioration

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The yellow wallpaper referenced in the title of the story holds significant symbolic meaning relating to the oppression of the narrator and the progression of her psychological deterioration. Early on, the narrator expresses her disdain for the yellow paper covering the walls of her temporary bedroom, referring to it as “that horrid paper,” and declaring it the worst wallpaper she had ever seen in her life (Gilman 77, 79). The frequently mentioned pattern of the wallpaper, which is particularly exasperating to the narrator, symbolizes the societal patterns of gender-related restrictions. “It is […] pronounced enough to constantly irritate and provoke study, and when you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide […] destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions” (Gilman 78). As the quote suggests, the narrator spends an ample amount of time obsessively studying the wallpaper in order to try to make sense of the pattern. This represents the narrator’s inner struggle to understand and accept the restrictions imposed on her by society. The narrator’s obsession with the pattern continues to grow, resulting in the personification of the paper: “This paper looks at me as if it knew what a vicious influence it had! There is a recurrent spot where […] two bulbous eyes stare at you upside down. I get positively angry with the impertinence of it…” (79). Gilman illustrates the progression of the narrator’s mental deterioration through the symbolic wallpaper. As the narrator’s postpartum depression worsens, she not only personifies the paper, but also starts to believe there is a woman physically trapped behind the pattern.
In comparison to the symbolic importance of the yellow wallpaper, the baby ...


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...f his famous “rest cure” regimen, a ploy to reinforce gender roles; Mitchell was sent a copy of the story upon its publication (Kautz). Through “Sleepy,” Chekhov exposed the danger of psychological and physical abuse, as well as the mistreatment of those in servitude, two issues relating to his own background and upbringing (Bloom). Although the oppression of the narrator and of Varka stem from differing forces, both characters eventually reach a psychological breaking point, demonstrated through Gilman and Chekhov’s use of powerful symbolism and imagery. Both stories include extreme endings, which reflect the psychological state of each protagonist and how it influences their final act to break free from oppression. Even though the ending of “Sleepy” is darker in comparison to the “The Yellow Wallpaper,” is it also most likely the more realistic of the two endings.

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