The narrator returns to her writing with a more optimistic tone and explains that her life finally has some excitement in it. John believes her condition is improving despite the wallpaper, but she gleefully admits to herself that it is because of the wallpaper that she is in better spirits. The wallpaper has become such an integral part of her experience at the estate that she can smell it all over the house and even on herself, describing the odor as “a yellow smell.” Other new details include a streak that runs along the perimeter of the room as if the paper had been rubbed off, the woman behind the bars shaking them at night, and she and other women occasionally trying unsuccessfully to climb through the main pattern. Perhaps, the narrator thinks, the impossibility of breaking through the pattern explains why she sees so many heads in it.

Turning her focus specifically toward the woman in the wallpaper, the narrator writes that the woman gets out and creeps around outside during the daytime, her image visible through the windows. The narrator, who admits to creeping around the room herself from time to time, fears that John may find out about her or the wallpaper woman. As a result, she resolves to free the woman by removing the top pattern off of the sub-pattern in the few days she has left at the estate. Meanwhile, John asks both Jennie and the narrator about her progress, and his seemingly kind responses do little to change her mind.

On her last day at the estate, the narrator waits patiently for night to fall and then begins tearing at the wallpaper to free the woman shaking the pattern. Jennie enters to see the torn wallpaper in the morning, and, while she does not discourage her desire to remove the paper, she warns her not to exhaust herself. After Jennie leaves, the narrator locks the door and throws the key out the window and onto the path below. She tries to move the bed to no avail, bites it out of frustration, and then continues tearing at all the wallpaper she can reach. The strangled heads on the paper seem to shriek and, getting angry, the narrator momentarily considers throwing herself out the window before admitting that the metal bars across it would be impossible to break through. She sees many creeping women outside her window and wonders if they, too, came out of the wallpaper like she did. 

John returns to the house and frantically pounds at the locked door, imploring that the narrator let him in. She, with as controlled a tone as she can muster, tells him where to find the key. After telling him repeatedly that she cannot open the door herself, John finally unlocks it and enters to find her creeping around the perimeter of the room, her shoulder fitting nicely in the streak where the paper had been rubbed off. Aghast at the sight, John faints to the floor. The narrator proclaims that she “got out at last” in spite of his efforts to contain her. She wonders why he has responded so but continues her movement around the room, uninterrupted by the new obstacle of his body.