GRIN - The portrait of a new woman in The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (2023)

Charlotte Perkins Gilman's short story The Yellow Wallpaper was first published inprecursor, in 1913, and caused much controversy among readers. Those who read the story were completely confused and could not understand the author's intentions.

As Gilman writes in his essayWhy I wrote The Yellow Wallpaper: “[A] Boston doctor protestedthe transcript. Such a story should not be written, he said; It was enough to drive anyone crazy reading it. [Gilman 1913:1] Why was the doctor so affected by Gilman's story? What was so extraordinary about that?

First, the story was written at a time when women's roles were defined only by men. In the early 20th century, women were expected to devote themselves primarily to the needs of their families. As indicated inThe Changing Role of Femininity: From Real Woman to New Woman in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow WallpaperCreated by Deborah Thomas, Men:

(...) an ideological prison that has subjugated and silenced women. This ideology, called the cult of true femininity, legitimized the harassment of women. The cult of domesticity and the cult of purity were the basic principles of the cult of true femininity. [Thomas 1998:1]

The women tried to reject the traditional pattern of behavior imposed on them by their fathers and husbands. However, most of his efforts were doomed to fail. Thomas quotes Welter, who states: "Whoever dared to tamper with the complex virtues that constituted true womanhood, male or female, was immediately condemned as the enemy of God, civilization, and the republic." [ibid.]

Given this, the doctor's speech can be easily understood. The story depicts the emergence of a completely new woman, who breaks free from the slavery of male power. The protagonist of "The yellow paper" has no name.

It seems that the author did not name the heroine so that the reader would realize that she represents the entire female world. In addition, it is worth noting the frequent use of the pronoun "I". It can indicate extraordinary self-confidence in the heroine, a focus on her own needs and ambitions. Also, she demonstrates selfishness in a positive sense. However, these traits were not considered as favorable as female characterization. Such qualities were associated only with the male world and could only be accepted in men. That is why Gilman's story was shocking, and the attitude that the heroine took of her was unthinkable not only for men but also for many women of her time.

The author contrasts two worlds. On the one hand, he describes a rich sphere of emotions, tender feelings and intuition typical of femininity. On the other hand, Gilman introduces the reader to the male perspective of the world. Logical thought, a sphere of intellect and science, and male dominance are featured in the story. The lack of understanding between a protagonist and her husband John is striking. The heroine suffers from a nervous disease. However, the husband does not take the disease seriously: "(...) he does not believe that I am sick! And what can you do? [Gilman 1913: 646] Furthermore, the husband is a respectable doctor and, in In his opinion, to get back in good condition, his wife should stay in bed and avoid work. However, the treatment does not exert any positive influence on the patient. In his opinion "(...) I could use a pleasant job with enthusiasm and variety." [Ibid.] The heroine's favorite pastime is keeping a diary. Expressing her thoughts is a great relief for the protagonist, but she is aware that she is forced to keep it a secret. Her husband he is totally opposed to her writing, which may indicate that he is willing to take away his wife's right to speak.

She has to control her behavior not only because of John but also because of her sister Jennie. The heroine's sister-in-law represents a very different kind of femininity. Although the protagonist appreciates Jennie's concern for her, she is perceived as John's rival and collaborator. Equally important, her names, John and Jennie, deserve a mention. The fact that the names sound similar could also indicate another type of similarity between them: the brothers illustrate the same way of thinking, they have the same mentality. Jennie is not prepared for a metamorphosis that her brother's wife is going through. She is a supporter of the tradition that women should only take care of the needs of their husbands and children. Jennie is portrayed in the story as follows: “She is a perfect enthusiastic housewife and she doesn't expect a better job. I really think she thinks it's the writing that made me sick! [Gilman 1913: 649] John's sister is typical of the ideology of the Cult of the True Woman. She has little chance of becoming a New Woman.

The impossibility of reconciling these two opposite worlds is not the only reason that draws the reader's attention. "The Yellow Wallpaper" is considered an ideal description of female madness. The main character lives in a deep depression. Although her husband is an excellent doctor, he cannot cure her. The heroine's condition worsens due to John's lack of emotional support. Her condition can be described at the beginning of the story as "[a] temporary nervous breakdown-a slight hysterical tendency (...)" [Gilman 1913: 646] Finally, as a result of the rest imposed by her husband, the protagonist suffers from severe hallucinations. At this point it is worth mentioning a character from the medical treatment she is undergoing. Juan's wife is separated from the world. She is locked in a room with yellow wallpaper. Wallpaper plays an important role in a story. At first, the protagonist simply does not like the color, pattern, and general appearance. But over time, women's fascination with this object gradually grows. She spends hours analyzing its patterns and concludes that the object must have some important meaning. Looking at the wallpaper becomes an attractive entertainment for the woman. She later finds out that there is a woman hiding behind him. As the heroine notes, this woman is trying to free herself from the wallpaper. Viola García quotes Hume, who affirms that the object symbolizes the "(...) other or repressed self of the protagonist". [Hume in Garcia 1998: 1] Equally important is the highly symbolic wallpaper pattern:

Compared to gymnastics, she presents her interest as a game, expressing a contrast between her husband's strictly polite and socially acceptable behavior (...) and her growing dissatisfaction with that behavior. [ibid.]

Regarding the color yellow, García quotes Lanser as saying that it can mean "inferiority, strangeness, cowardice, ugliness and backwardness". [Ibid.] At the end of the story, the wallpaper is destroyed by the main character. This act shows his desire to escape the paths that lead to his behavior. She strives to break the stereotype that men are superior to women. The figure hidden behind the wallpaper represents a rebellious part of your personality finally showing itself. The yellow wallpaper is torn because the main character is ready to get rid of the inferiority of it. The awareness of the desire to transform themselves and their place in society is essential for them to experience transformation. The heroine's illness is the "result of her alienation from the role of her that society expects of her, so that her insistence that she is ill is an evasion of that reality." [Ibid.] To become a new woman, the main character must endure intense suffering.



What is the main message of The Yellow Wallpaper *? ›

“The Yellow Wallpaper” is an illustration of the way a mind that is already plagued with anxiety can deteriorate and begin to prey on itself when it is forced into inactivity and kept from healthy work.

What is the significance of the woman behind the wallpaper in The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

The yellow wallpaper in "The Yellow Wallpaper" is a symbol of society and patriarchy. It is ugly, faded, and torn in some spots, and a figure of a woman is trapped in the paper. It symbolizes women, or the woman in the story, being trapped within the constraints of a patriarchal society.

What are 3 questions about The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

Focus Questions: "The Yellow Wall-Paper"
  • What sort of case can be made that the husband is really trying to drive his wife insane? ...
  • In what ways does the image of the yellow wallpaper contribute to the story?
  • What does Gilman achieve by allowing the wife to tell her own story?
  • What is dramatic irony?

How is the woman in The Yellow Wallpaper portrayed? ›

Throughout the story the woman is shown to creep and crawl around, looking for a way to get out of the wallpaper. However, she is constantly obstructed by the top pattern of the wallpaper. For instance, at one point the narrator notes that “She is all the time trying to climb through.

What is the meaning of the short story The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

"The Yellow Wallpaper" details the deterioration of a woman's mental health while she is on a "rest cure" on a rented summer country estate with her family. Her obsession with the yellow wallpaper in her bedroom marks her descent into psychosis from her depression throughout the story.

What is the conclusion of the story The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

The story concludes with the violent finale when Jane theatrically shreds the yellow wallpaper. At this moment, Jane is at the peak of her mental disarray, and when she has finally decided that she must break free from the chains that John has subjugated upon her.

What was the author's purpose when she wrote the yellow wallpaper? ›

What is this? “Why I Wrote the Yellow Wallpaper” deals directly with the postpartum depression she suffered from, and her hopes that the story would enlighten other women who had similar experiences.

What mental illness does the woman in the yellow wallpaper have? ›

She displays her depressive mood within the story by crying all day at nothing. She displays her schizophrenic symptoms when she experiences delusions, hallucinations, and social withdrawal.

What is the woman doing at the end of the yellow wallpaper? ›

At the end of the story, as her husband lies on the floor unconscious, she crawls over him, symbolically rising over him. This is interpreted as a victory over her husband at the expense of her sanity.

What is the main conflict of The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

Major Conflict The struggle between the narrator and her husband, who is also her doctor, over the nature and treatment of her illness leads to a conflict within the narrator's mind between her growing understanding of her own powerlessness and her desire to repress this awareness.

Who dies at the end of The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

Although it is not directly stated, readers can assume that Jane dies at the end of "The Yellow Wallpaper." She talks about finding a way to free herself from the trap caused by her rest cure treatment which causes her to descend further into madness to the point she begins hallucinating a woman trapped by the pattern ...

What is ironic in The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

The central irony of "The Yellow Wallpaper" is that the rest cure treatment prescribed for the main character does the opposite of what the treatment is intended to do. Rather than help her recover from what is likely postpartum depression, the treatment causes her illness to develop into full psychosis.

What does the ending of the story suggest about the woman behind the wallpaper? ›

The narrator crawls around the room, shouting out that she is finally out. She believes to have set the woman behind the wallpaper free. The symbolic meaning of the ending highlights the suppressive treatment of women in the 19th century. The actions of Jane's husband and doctors lead to her losing her sanity.

What is the social issue in The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

The social issue that plays a central role in "The Yellow Wallpaper" is the treatment of women in late 19th-century society, particularly by the medical field. The woman in the story is forced to endure the rest cure, a treatment created by Silas Weir Mitchell to treat nervous conditions in women but not in men.

What happens to the husband at the end of The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

The story ends with her husband banging on the door to be let in, fetching the key when she tells him it's down by the front door mat, and bursting into the room – whereupon he faints, at the sight of his wife creeping around the room.

What happens to the narrator at the end of The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

By the end, the narrator is hopelessly insane, convinced that there are many creeping women around and that she herself has come out of the wallpaper—that she herself is the trapped woman. She creeps endlessly around the room, smudging the wallpaper as she goes.

What is a good thesis statement for The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

Thesis #1: "The Yellow Wallpaper" uses descriptive imagery to chart the progression of Jane's madness. Thesis #2: Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote "The Yellow Wallpaper" in the form of a diary kept by an allegedly hysterical woman who uses the diary as a means of escape.

What is the importance of the point of view in The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

The author's use of the first person to convey the story allows readers to go along for the ride into madness and cultivates a certain amount of sympathy for the narrator and her plight. The constant use of "I" puts us right in the narrator's head and allows us to empathize with her.

What does the woman in The Yellow Wallpaper want? ›

''The Yellow Wallpaper:'' Summary

Along the way, the woman becomes obsessed with the yellow wallpaper in her room and is convinced that there is a woman trapped behind the wallpaper, whom she wants to free.

Does her mental state improve or worsen in The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

As the story progresses, the narrator's notice of the wallpaper transforms into an obsession, causing her mental state to once again deteriorate, eventually resulting in her complete psychological collapse.

Does The Yellow Wallpaper have a happy or sad ending explain your answer? ›

The ending of "The Yellow Wallpaper" doesn't have a happy ending because the author never mentions if the narrator gets her sanity back eventually and she also doesn't mention other important details that would show that she gets liberated.

What is the climax of yellow wallpaper? ›

In "The Yellow Wallpaper," the climax of the story was marked when the narrator was fully aware of the woman's existence on the wall. The narrator had seen the woman wandering around and could not stop thinking... See full answer below.

What figure of speech is in The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

Gilman employs personification—a figure of speech in which the author attributes human characteristics to a thing, an animal, or an idea—frequently throughout “The Yellow Wallpaper.” The narrator constantly describes the wallpaper as a living entity and endows it with human characteristics.

Did the woman hang herself in The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

Although the story does not directly state this, it is believed that the narrator from "The Yellow Wallpaper" does hang herself at the end of the story. This is indicated in the passage where she discusses hiding a length of rope in her room and finding a way to escape her confinement, despite never leaving the room.

Is John the villain in The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

Though John seems like the obvious villain of “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the story does not allow us to see him as wholly evil. John's treatment of the narrator's depression goes terribly wrong, but in all likelihood he was trying to help her, not make her worse.

Is Yellow Wallpaper Based on a true story? ›

Although "The Yellow Wallpaper" is a work of fiction, it was based on Gilman's own experience after being diagnosed as an hysteric and prescribed a "rest cure" which prohibited her writing and labelled her feminism and social critique as symptoms of uterine illness.

Can someone explain the ending of The woman in the Window? ›

The final Woman in the Window plot twist is that the killer was never Alistair Russell—it was his 15-year-old son Ethan. Ethan descends on Anna with a knife in hand and explains that he killed David as payback for sleeping with his mom (Julianne Moore) and bringing her back into his life.

How does the narrator feel about the woman in the wallpaper? ›

At first, the narrator simply detested the yellow wallpaper based on its appearance. Now she feels suspicious of the wallpaper. She believes that the wallpaper would harm her baby if given the chance. However, she knows enough not to mention this belief to her caregivers.

What did Anna find at the end of the woman? ›

She then panics when he tells her there was no one sitting next to her, and fears she's hallucinating again. However, in the final moments, Anna finds the woman's compact tucked between the seat cushions, confirming to her she was right.

What are 2 themes of The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

There is no one major theme of The Yellow Wallpaper, but a few central ones: feminism and gender roles, freedom of expression, and mental illness.

What is the central idea of The Yellow Wallpaper quizlet? ›

The theme of the story is the idea that depression can trap you. This is shown in the story as the room the narrator is trapped in as well as the wallpaper which is tormenting her at every waking hour. The yellow wallpaper told a story of sorrow and confusion.

What best expresses the theme of The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

One theme from Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" is that people can become mentally unstable without the freedom to express themselves.

What was the purpose of The Yellow Wallpaper quizlet? ›

It acts as a mental entrapment for the main character. As the narrator tears down the wallpaper in the end, it was revealed that the woman trapped behind the wallpaper was in fact herself. This represents the point where her illness has taken full control over her and leads to her own madness.

What is the purpose of The Yellow Wallpaper is the purpose important or meaningful? ›

What is the central/primary purpose of The Yellow Wallpaper? Is the purpose important or meaningful? The purpose was to show America how women are treated and that since no one would listen to her, it cause her to go insane.

What is the central theme of the yellow paper? ›

Self-Expression, Miscommunication, and Misunderstanding

Alongside questions of gender and mental illness in “The Yellow Wallpaper” is the simple story of a woman who is unable fully to express herself, or to find someone who will listen.

What is the most important symbol in The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

The most obvious motif in the story is the wallpaper, it takes centre stage and could even be described as a character in itself. It's importance lies in its symbolism, it represents the society of the time, the narrators desire for creative expression and her obsession with the paper symbolises madness.

What are some major themes of the short story The Yellow Wallpaper? ›

There is no one major theme of The Yellow Wallpaper, but a few central ones: feminism and gender roles, freedom of expression, and mental illness.


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