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The Yellow Wallpaper

Charlotte Perkins Gilman


Key Facts

Key Facts

title · “The Yellow Wallpaper”

author · Charlotte Perkins Gilman

type of work · Short story

genre · Gothic horror tale; character study; socio-political allegory

language · English

time and place written · 1892, California

date of first publication · May, 1892

publisher · The New England Magazine

narrator · A mentally troubled young woman, possibly named Jane

point of view · As the main character’s fictional journal, the story is told in strict first-person narration, focusing exclusively on her own thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. Everything that we learn or see in the story is filtered through the narrator’s shifting consciousness, and since the narrator goes insane over the course of the story, her perception of reality is often completely at odds with that of the other characters.

tone · The narrator is in a state of anxiety for much of the story, with flashes of sarcasm, anger, and desperation—a tone Gilman wants the reader to share.

tense · The story stays close to the narrator’s thoughts at the moment and is thus mostly in the present tense.

setting (time) · Late nineteenth century

setting (place) · America, in a large summer home (or possibly an old asylum), primarily in one bedroom within the house.

protagonist · The narrator, a young upper-middle-class woman who is suffering from what is most likely postpartum depression and whose illness gives her insight into her (and other women’s) situation in society and in marriage, even as the treatment she undergoes robs her of her sanity.

major conflict · The struggle between the narrator and her husband, who is also her doctor, over the nature and treatment of her illness leads to a conflict within the narrator’s mind between her growing understanding of her own powerlessness and her desire to repress this awareness.

rising action · The narrator decides to keep a secret journal, in which she describes her forced passivity and expresses her dislike for her bedroom wallpaper, a dislike that gradually intensifies into obsession.

climax · The narrator completely identifies herself with the woman imprisoned in the wallpaper.

falling action · The narrator, now completely identified with the woman in the wallpaper,spends her time crawling on all fours around the room. Her husband discovers her and collapses in shock, and she keeps crawling, right over his fallen body.

themes · The subordination of women in marriage; the importance of self-expression; the evils of the “Resting Cure”

motifs · Irony; the journal

symbols · The wallpaper

foreshadowing · The discovery of the teeth marks on the bedstead foreshadows the narrator’s own insanity and suggests the narrator is not revealing everything about her behavior; the first use of the word “creepy” foreshadows the increasing desperation of the narrator’s situation and her own eventual “creeping.”

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by agthomashc, April 11, 2014

I think the wallpaper represents her trying to escape her husband. She said she saw a woman trapped by bars trying to escape the wallpaper. This is symbolic of her relationship with John. As she looks further into the wallpaper, she is really examining her life and begins to change her mind and talk about how she now despises John.


33 out of 39 people found this helpful

Postpartum Depression

by emilykwilk, May 06, 2014

I think it's important to realise not only that she is suffering from depression, but also the kind of depression she's really experiencing. The mention of the newborn child she is not allowed to see leads to the assumption that she is enduring postpartum depression. This adds to the sexism within the theme of the story. Her inability to meet the motherly expectations are a key factor to why she's addressed as a child.


58 out of 62 people found this helpful

My Thoughts

by mythoughtsabout, April 21, 2015

I think the woman in the wallpaper is an image she is seeing of herself being trapped. People who are depressed are constantly stuck in their own minds. Sort of like being inside your own head and your eyes are just glass windows you can see out of, but cannot escape. She's seeing herself in the wallpaper trying to escape because she is also trying to escape her depression. When she is ripping off the wall paper and the woman is also ripping it from the inside, she thinks that the woman is helping her, but it's herself trying to escape.

... Read more


133 out of 136 people found this helpful

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