The Narrator

A young, upper-middle-class woman, newly married and a mother, who is undergoing care for depression. The narrator—whose name may or may not be Jane—is highly imaginative and a natural storyteller, though her doctors believe she has a “slight hysterical tendency.” The story is told in the form of her secret diary, in which she records her thoughts as her obsession with the wallpaper grows.

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The narrator’s husband and her physician. John restricts her behavior as part of her treatment. Unlike his imaginative wife, John is extremely practical, preferring facts and figures to “fancy,” at which he “scoffs openly.” He seems to love his wife, but he does not understand the negative effect his treatment has on her.

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John’s sister. Jennie acts as housekeeper for the couple. Her presence and her contentment with a domestic role intensify the narrator’s feelings of guilt over her own inability to act as a traditional wife and mother. Jennie seems, at times, to suspect that the narrator is more troubled than she lets on.

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Only mentioned one time throughout the course of the story, Mary is the nurse who takes care of the narrator’s baby while she and John are at the estate for the summer. The narrator is relieved that her baby is in such good hands, but she also worries that she cannot be with him. Like Jennie, Mary embraces and succeeds at the domestic role that Victorian society expects women to fulfill.