The Yellow Wallpaper: Study Guide

The Yellow Wallpaper

The Yellow Wallpaper is a short story written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in 1892. The story is attributed to the Gothic horror genre. Still, it looks like the author herself never meant for it to be interpreted that way. Gilman aimed for a realistic description of the later proven to be inadequate “rest cure.” That was a standard method of treating mental breakdown at the author’s time. Today, the story retains its relevance and serves to draw attention to many contemporary phenomena.

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The Yellow Wallpaper study guide prepared by our editorial team is an extensive collection of materials necessary for understanding the most famous short story by Gilman. Along with the summary and analysis of The Yellow Wallpaper, you’ll find here short reviews of the key themes, symbols, and literary devices used in the story. There are descriptions of all the characters as well.

💁 All You Need to Know about The Yellow Wallpaper

📌 What is The Yellow Wallpaper About?

The Yellow Wallpaper is autobiographical to some extent. An intelligent and sensitive female writer is trying to recover from a nervous breakdown she suffered after giving birth. She secretly writes an account of her lonely day-to-day existence in a rental house. The yellow wallpaper in one of the rooms captures her imagination to the point of complete fixation.

The Yellow Wallpaper is a diary of a woman who is suffering from postpartum depression. She is prescribed the so-called “rest cure.” That leads to her confinement in a limited space with little to no social contact. Having nothing better to do, she fixates on the abhorrent yellow wallpaper in her room and loses her mind.

📌 When Was The Yellow Wallpaper Written?

The Yellow Wallpaper was published in January 1892 in The New England Magazine. The 19th century is considered to be the time of enlightenment and innovation. Still, much was underdeveloped and misunderstood. One of the under-researched things was the physical and mental health of women. The tragedy of an incorrect treatment is illustrated in the story.

📌 Why Was The Yellow Wallpaper Written?

Why is The Yellow Wallpaper autobiographical? Gilman comments on it in Why I Wrote ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’. There she discloses how her mental health was once in jeopardy. The poor treatment was prescribed to her by a “noted specialist in nervous diseases, the best known in the country.” Only after ditching the procedures was she able to recover.

🗺️ The Yellow Wallpaper Study Guide: Navigation

A short summary of the story with pictures that contains the key events of The Yellow Wallpaper.

The detailed summary and analysis of the short story. Active characters and themes.

The Yellow Wallpaper’s narrator, John, Mary, Jennie, and the Woman – all the characters of the short story described on one page.

The key symbols and themes in The Yellow Wallpaper: freedom of expression, mental illness, and family.

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All the important quotations from The Yellow Wallpaper explained on one page.

A collection of ideas for your essay on The Yellow Wallpaper: 100% free research paper and essay examples.

An extensive list of essay topics on the short story: themes, characters, literary analysis, & more.

A timeline and a biography of a famous American writer and activist.

An extensive list of answers to the most pressing questions about the story.

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🔑 The Yellow Wallpaper: Facts

Author:Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Original Title:The Yellow Wall-paper. A Story
Type Of Work:Short Story
Language:English
First Publication Date:January 1892
Where does The Yellow Wallpaper take place?America
When does The Yellow Wallpaper take place?Late 19th Century
Main Themes:Mental Illness, Freedom of Expression, Gender & Family

📚 The Yellow Wallpaper: Historical Context

In 1913, the article “Why I Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper” was published. It was inspired by the so-called “rest cure” that the doctors applied to treat Gilman’s postpartum melancholy. In 1886, soon after her daughter was born, she was stricken by severe depression.

In her biography, Gilman described her “unbearable inner misery”. The state only worsened with the presence of her baby and husband. Just like the novella’s narrator, Gilman was prescribed the “rest cure.” She followed all the instructions of her physicians, avoiding any physical and mental activities. However, this treatment didn’t help. It even made her condition worse, leading her to a nervous breakdown.

However, this is something more than a personal story. It’s impossible to analyze the novella without addressing The Yellow Wallpaper’s historical context. The short story was published in January 1892 in The New England Magazine. At the time, the female part of the population still had neither the right to vote nor the right to be independent financially. The novella tells us a lot about the gender roles typical for late 19th-century America.

A scientist was the symbol of the era of breakthroughs. He (for it was always a man) was a pragmatic and learned individual who disregarded any nonsense or weirdness. What he did not understand, he shoved away and out of sight.

Men were the earners. They were also those who commanded the social lives of their families. Women were regarded as soft and vulnerable creatures doomed to conduct home lifestyles. Considered to be inferior to men, many women were denied the recognition for the fruits of their mental labor. The traditional female role was that of a wife, a mother, a servant. On the one hand, the upper-class women were pictured as being frail both physically and mentally. They were advised against straining their fragile minds lest they suffer inevitable physical and mental complications. On the other hand, working-class women were subjected to the same level of strain and hardship in work as their male counterparts. Only they were paid less. On the whole, women were in a very unfair position, where their judgment was wrong a priori. Of course, it was reflected in the medical sphere, too. Gilman portrays this side in her short story. This is what forms The Yellow Wallpaper’s historical context.

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IvyPanda. (2021, June 29). The Yellow Wallpaper. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/lit/the-yellow-wallpaper/

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IvyPanda. "The Yellow Wallpaper." June 29, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/lit/the-yellow-wallpaper/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "The Yellow Wallpaper." June 29, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/lit/the-yellow-wallpaper/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'The Yellow Wallpaper'. 29 June.