There comes John’s sister. Such a dear girl as she is, and so careful of me! I must not let her find me writing. She is a perfect and enthusiastic housekeeper, and hopes for no better profession. I verily believe she thinks it is the writing which makes me sick!
The narrator’s thoughts reveal she feels fond of Jennie, and as she writes for her eyes only, the reader accepts she speaks the truth. As she reflects on Jennie’s good housekeeping skills and her contentment with the work, the narrator concludes she shouldn’t expect Jennie to approve of her preference for writing. She feels amused that Jennie thinks writing makes her sick. For now, the narrator can confidently deny such a possibility even though she knows both Jennie and John believe her writing harms her.
John thought it might do me good to see a little company, so we just had mother and Nellie and the children down for a week. Of course I didn’t do anything. Jennie sees to everything now.
Here, the narrator reveals that, although she and John welcomed guests, no one expected her to do any work as Jennie took over. The reader suspects that the narrator’s lack of engagement in fact makes her more tired—meaning, depressed; the distraction and purpose of having useful work might make her feel better. Jennie has taken over all care of the household, distancing the narrator further from reality.
I caught Jennie with her hand on it once. She didn’t know I was in the room, and when I asked her in a quiet, a very quiet voice, with the most restrained manner possible, what she was doing with the paper—she turned round as if she had been caught stealing, and looked quite angry—asked me why I should frighten her so! Then she said that the paper stained everything it touched, that she had found yellow smooches on all my clothes and John’s, and she wished we would be more careful!
The narrator suspiciously confronts Jennie fingering the yellow wallpaper. The narrator believes that the yellow wallpaper contains a mystery she feels determined to solve, and she does not want to share the secret with anyone. She doubts Jennie’s excuse for touching the wallpaper. However, Jennie’s observation evidences the narrator’s growing obsession with the wallpaper as she spends a lot of time both tearing at and rubbing against the wallpaper as she circuits the room. Jennie’s complaint that the wallpaper has tainted the couple foreshadows the climax of the story.
I heard him ask Jennie a lot of professional questions about me. She had a very good report to give. She said I slept a good deal in the daytime.
The narrator eavesdrops on a conversation between John and Jennie, his sister, who helps to look after her. Sleeping during the day is a typical symptom of depression. The narrator’s choice of dispassionate words to describe the overheard conversation as “professional” and a “report” implies an emotional detachment from the subject of her well-being, and from the people conversing, even though they are her husband and sister-in-law.
Jennie looked at the wall in amazement, but I told her merrily that I did it out of pure spite at the vicious thing. She laughed and said she wouldn’t mind doing it herself, but I must not get tired. How she betrayed herself that time!
The narrator describes Jennie’s response to seeing that she tears at the yellow wallpaper. Jennie responds with sympathetic good humor to the narrator’s lighthearted excuse that the wallpaper is ugly and offers to finish the job. The delusional narrator does not believe Jennie’s sincerity. At first, the narrator knew that her hatred of the wallpaper evolved from an aesthetic preference. By now, she believes that the wallpaper intentionally trapped a woman inside itself, whom she must free. In her paranoia she assumes Jennie knows about the woman also.