The Yellow Wallpaper Summary

  • Last updated on March 25, 2021
"infobox Book "
name The Yellow Wallpaper
image
image caption 1901 Edition
author Charlotte Perkins Gilman
country America
language English language
genre(s) Short Story
publisher -
release date 1892
media type Hardback and Paperback
pages 65
isbn 9387598993
Charlotte Perkins Gilman's classic 1892 short story The Yellow Wallpaper has not only become an icon of Gothic literature but of feminist literature as well. The story centres on the theme of mental health and how women were treated at the time. The Yellow Wallpaper is a fascinating, and at times very unsettling, insight into just how powerless women were when it came to taking charge of their own health and treatment.

Character Summaries

The narrator

The narrator of the story is an unnamed woman who has been put on bed-rest by her physician husband. As the narrator spends more and more time in the one room, she slowly begins to lose her grip on reality. She becomes increasingly fascinated with the yellow wallpaper in the bedroom she is essentially trapped in, believing there to be another woman trapped inside its strange pattern.

John

John is the narrator's husband and a physician. He seems well-meaning but does not seem to realize that his wife is going mad until it is already too late.

Jennie

Jennie is the housekeeper and also John's sister. She seems a little more aware of the narrator's state than John does, but does not intervene.

Plot Summary

The Yellow Wallpaper is written in the first-person, a journal account of the main character who is also the narrator.

John, the narrator’s husband, has secured a rental for the summer. He is a physician and described as “practical in the extreme” and as having “no patience with faith, an intense horror of superstition and … scoffs openly at any talk of things not to be felt and seen and put down in figures.”’

The narrator is ill, yet her husband does not believe it to be true. John believes the narrator to just be suffering from a short bout of nervous depression, but the narrator knows it is more than this. They despair at the fact they are prohibited from doing anything, knowing that actually being able to do things and getting new experiences will help them to feel better.

The narrator describes the house that she and her husband are staying in in detail. They describe how the place has been abandoned for a very long time. The narrator also describes their room and how it must have once been used for children. They express their dislike of the room’s awful wallpaper.

The wallpaper, however, seemingly becomes an obsession for the narrator. They describe it over and over again, how there are eyes in the paper, how they are growing fonder and fonder of it. They also find themselves becoming more and more tired, saying that “it is getting to be a great effort for me to think straight”, but blaming this mental fatigue on their so-called nervous disorder.

The narrator begins to notice what appears to be a figure behind the wallpaper, faint but still visible. Moving “as if she wanted to get out.” They also claim that the colour of the paper changes as the light changes. The narrator tries to discuss how they are feeling with their husband, but are dismissed.

The narrator begins to become truly obsessed with the wallpaper, staying up all night to watch it and saying that they will discover the secret of the wallpaper. They also claim that they are feeling much better now that they feel they have something to look forward to. They also mention feeling suspicious of their husband.

Eventually the narrator begins to believe that there is a woman in the pattern of the wallpaper who gets out in the day and creeps around on all fours. The narrator then begins ripping off the wallpaper in order to try to free the woman she believes is trapped inside. After locking herself in the room, the narrator creeps around on all-fours, rubbing themselves against the ripped wallpaper. John faints upon entering but the woman continues to circle around the room, believing herself to be the woman inside the wallpaper now and that she is finally free.

Categories: Short Stories