3. There are things in that paper which nobody knows but me, or ever
Behind that outside pattern the dim shapes get clearer every day.
It is always the same shape, only very numerous.
And it is like a woman stooping down and creeping about behind that
pattern. I don’t like it a bit. I wonder—I begin to think—I wish John would
take me away from here!
About halfway through the story, the sub-pattern of the wallpaper
finally comes into focus. The narrator is being drawn further and further
into her fantasy, which contains a disturbing truth about her life. Gilman’s
irony is actively at work here: the “things” in the paper are both the
ghostly women the narrator sees and the disturbing ideas she is coming to
understand. She is simultaneously jealous of the secret (“nobody knows but
me”) and frightened of what it seems to imply. Again the narrator tries to
deny her growing insight (“the dim shapes get clearer every day”), but she
is powerless to extricate herself. Small wonder that the woman she sees is
always “stooping down and creeping about.” Like the narrator herself, she is
trapped within a suffocating domestic “pattern” from which no escape is