The Yellow Wallpaper
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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