The narration is done in first person and it involves a woman who is confined by her husband who acts as a physician in a bedroom which is upstairs in a house which has been rented for summer. The woman is prevented from performing her chores as she has been diagnosed as suffering from a slight nervous depression. The room’s wallpaper is yellow and this woman becomes obsessed by the color and the patterns of the wallpaper ‘the color is dull and confuses the eyes, provoke studies and when watched closely can lead to one committing suicide’ (Charlotte, pp 4).
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She claims that the smell of this yellow paper is unpleasant and ultimately imagines that behind the patterns are women who are creeping and believes she is part of them and locks herself in the room refusing to quit when the period of rent is up ‘Outside you crawl on ground where all is green and not yellow unlike here where the floor is smooth, shoulders fit around and its easy to find the way’ (Charlotte, pp 16)
The husband aims to perform therapy to the wife by what is scientific and observable so as to recover from the depression but instead she progress to madness. He treats his wife as powerless patient and serves her as a physician.The woman could have a suffering of postpartum psychosis because she had given birth recently. By locking her in the room upstairs it shows the husband is oblivious and dictatorial and this worsens her condition ‘John would not listen’ (Charlotte, pp 4).
The woman devotes her journal entries to giving a description of the wallpaper ‘yellow’ and its smell is ‘breakneck’. She gives a description of its pattern as patched and leaves smears of yellow color on clothes and skin of one touching it. This suggests that she was the one shredding this wallpaper. She becomes obsessed and describes the room as a nursery which had kids who disliked the wallpaper just like she did. As she spends more time in this room, the wallpaper seems to mutate particular in moonlight.
Having the only stimuli as the wallpaper, the designs and patterns appears more intriguing such that a woman figure appears in the pattern which makes her conclude that this figure is making effort to escape and creeps behind the bars. ‘This woman behind is shaking it’ (Charlotte, pp 9).
As summer approach the end, the woman borrows permission to leave this room but John refuses and warns her not to say a word for the same. She takes her entire period of the night watching the paper and her daytime while sleeping. She progress into insanity entirely and thinks she is the one who got through from the wallpaper and strips off the left designs trying to conceal her obsession with fear that her husband may decide to re-diagnose her & his sister will still be with them.
She locks the room on the last summer day so as to peel the rest of the wallpaper and refuses to open when John comes back home and orders him to pick the key outside the window. John opens and finds she is creeping around while making circles on the wall. She exclaims that she is free at last which makes John to faint ‘I am out at last… you cannot hinder me’. The woman continues to make circles in the room while stepping over him each lap she makes (Charlotte, pp 16).
Feminist critics have condemned the story suggesting that the woman should have been working other than resting, interact with society other than isolation, and become a responsible mother other than being isolated from her kid. This woman has no voice and the language used describes her as irrational and the marriage points out inequality. This is a gothic literature as it touches on issues of powerlessness and madness. The ghosts from the wallpaper meant at driving her insane qualify the story to be a horror fiction. Domestic sphere concept is achieved in the story where women are subordinate in marriage and her domestic work while men are shown to play an active role.
As the story concludes, the woman acquires freedom and realizes she couldn’t live locked behind bars. John faints and the woman creeps over him. This symbolizes that she attains superiority over him and achieved in controlling the husband.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The Yellow Wallpaper.Orchises Press, 1990.