The Yellow Wallpaper: Characters

Characters

The main characters in The Yellow Wallpaper are: the Narrator, John (her husband), Jennie, and Mary. And, last but not least, there is an imagined woman behind the wallpaper’s pattern who drives the Narrator crazy.

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Welcome The Yellow Wallpaper characters page prepared by our editorial team! It describes all the main characters in The Yellow Wallpaper and provides a comprehensive analysis of their roles in the short story.

🖋️ The Yellow Wallpaper: Narrator

The narrator in The Yellow Wallpaper

The narrator in The Yellow Wallpaper is a creative and imaginative young woman who suffers from postpartum depression. The short story is written in the form of her secret journal.

What Is the Narrator’s Name in The Yellow Wallpaper?

The narrator in The Yellow Wallpaper doesn’t have a name. Leaving the narrator’s name ambiguous in stories written from the first-person perspective is quite common. A possible reason for The Yellow Wallpaper narrator’s lack of a name might be symbolic. The central theme of the short story is that the narrator lacks agency and identity of her own.

The Narrator in The Yellow Wallpaper: Character Analysis

The main character of The Yellow Wallpaper is the narrator.

She is a woman who has recently given birth to her first child. Now she is trying to recover from postpartum depression. Her husband, John, is “a physician of high standing.” He has taken it up to oversee his wife’s treatment. The treatment he has chosen is a so-called “rest cure,” widely practiced by psychiatrists at the narrator’s time. 

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As a part of the treatment, a patient has to abstain from any mental activity until they miraculously recover. John has arranged a rental house for himself and his wife until she gets better. The narrator is sealed up in the desolate mansion for an entire summer, banned from all social connections. She can’t do any mental exercise whatsoever. Craving action, her mind gets fixated on the one thing that provokes her utmost irritation – the ugly yellow wallpaper in the room she has to live in. The result is the narrator’s gradual descent into insanity. The fact is overlooked and ignored by those closest to her.

The mentality of the main character of the story is a fascinating subject. The narrator is a product of her time – she is, first and foremost, a woman. She was taught to place her trust in the judgment of the males superior to her. That was customary in the patriarchal society of the time. It didn’t help that she was naturally shy and agreeable, having no desire to cause distress or discomfort to those around her. It made it easier for her husband to deny her agency of her own, to belittle both herself and her suffering.

The narrator is a writer. She is a deeply imaginative and delicate soul who finds inspiration in anything surrounding her. Her husband seems to believe that his wife’s very nature is what causes her illness. Not once does he instill it into her – your thoughts, your imagination, your fancies are nothing but trouble. You must cease to think, to imagine, and to fancy. The narrator tries to abide, for John is an unquestionable authority in her eyes. She is stuck in a position painfully awkward from a social point of view. On the one hand, she doesn’t agree with how her husband chooses to treat her to the core. On the other hand, being weakened by her condition, she is unable to communicate it.

John continuously cuts her off and turns her down. Under these circumstances, the narrator has no choice but to submit rather than cause inconvenience by arguing or taking matters into her own hands. Thus, the building up pressure from the unspent energy and the suppressed thoughts result in her misfortune.

The Yellow Wallpaper: Narrator’s Quotes

“I think sometimes that if I were only well enough to write a little it would relieve the press of ideas and rest me. But I find I get pretty tired when I try. It is so discouraging not to have any advice and companionship about my work.”

The Yellow Wallpaper, entry 1

“I don’t feel as if it was worth while to turn my hand over for anything, and I’m getting dreadfully fretful and querulous. I cry at nothing, and cry most of the time.”

The Yellow Wallpaper, entry 2

“I’ve got out at last,.. in spite of you and Jane! And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back! Now why should that man have fainted? But he did, and right across my path by the wall, so that I had to creep over him every time! ”

The Yellow Wallpaper, entry 11

👨‍⚕️ Who is John in The Yellow Wallpaper?

John in The Yellow Wallpaper

John is the narrator’s husband, a physician by profession. He takes it upon himself to oversee the treatment of his wife. From his point of view, the reason for her illness is her imagination. He forbids her to do any mental exercise. Although John is barely present, his controlling personality steers the narrator’s life into a disaster.

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John in The Yellow Wallpaper: Character Analysis

John is a caring and thoughtful individual. At least, this is how the narrator wants to see him. He does display a level of concern in his wife’s state of health.

However, in practice, he is drastically opposed to considering the narrator’s evaluation of her condition. John believes that his wife imagines herself being ill and doesn’t trust anything she is trying to tell him. She justifies her husband’s condescending and disparaging tone by coloring John pragmatic. In reality, he is simply rude to her.

John scoffs at and waves off every thought his wife tries to share with him. He is also uncomfortable with the fact that the narrator is a writer. Her “imagined” illness comes as an excellent excuse for John to ban her from writing and seeing like-minded people.

It’s apparent from the text that John feels ashamed of his wife’s condition. He reiterates how nothing is wrong with her and hides the narrator from society until she is presentable again. That is one reason for her eventual descent into madness – John’s inability and unwillingness to admit that there’s a problem. The infamous “rest cure” is forced upon the narrator, trying to oppose it in her limited capabilities. The resulting misfortune is entirely of John’s doing.

The particular tragedy of this outcome is the fact that it was one hundred percent preventable. If the people closest to the narrator would just listen to her telling them how bad she feels, everything might have turned out differently. The way all the factors that drive the narrator crazy conveniently combine makes John look especially suspicious. She is banned from seeing other people. She is separated from her newborn and forced to live in the room that causes her such distress. There’s a ban on not just writing but even thinking. All these facts make the situation look like it was orchestrated. Although it’s impossible to tell it from the account of the story’s unreliable narrator, the husband might have been in on it. She chooses to see nothing but her husband’s benevolence, love, and well-meaning, ignoring her distinct feeling of disquiet.

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The Yellow Wallpaper: John’s Quotes

“Bless her little heart!.. She shall be as sick as she pleases! But now let’s improve the shining hours by going to sleep, and talk about it in the morning!”

The Yellow Wallpaper, entry 5

“My darling,.. I beg of you, for my sake and for our child’s sake, as well as for your own, that you will never for one instant let that idea enter your mind! There is nothing so dangerous, so fascinating, to a temperament like yours. It is a false and foolish fancy. Can you not trust me as a physician when I tell you so?”

The Yellow Wallpaper, entry 5

💉 Who is Mary in The Yellow Wallpaper?

Mary in The Yellow Wallpaper

There is nothing known about Mary apart from the fact that she is the nursemaid to the narrator’s newborn child. She is praised for her work: the narrator believes Mary to be good with the baby, although it’s not clear how she knows it. Either her relatives are telling her that, or the narrator is assuring herself.

👧 Who is Jennie in The Yellow Wallpaper?

Jennie in The Yellow Wallpaper

Jennie is the sister of the narrator’s husband, John. She takes up the role of the housekeeper since the narrator is unable to carry out this duty. Jennie doesn’t appear much in the story, keeping a distance from her sister-in-law. She is a source of guilt for the narrator, who is feeling like a burden.

🌝 Who is The Woman in The Yellow Wallpaper?

The Woman in The Yellow Wallpaper

The Woman from the wallpaper is the crucial component of the narrator’s hallucinations. The latter doesn’t see the Woman immediately after moving in. Rather, her hallucinations are exponentially intensifying throughout the narrator’s stay.

First, the narrator is disturbed only by the poor design of the pattern and the repellant shades of yellow color. Then, she starts noticing a subpattern visible only in a particular light. After a while, the flowery curls start sprouting fungus, and there are upside-down heads with white eyes poking through the pattern as if they tried to climb out but were cut down. And, of course, there is the Woman, stooping down and creeping behind the pattern at all times, and at nights, she is shaking it, trying to get out.

The Woman does eventually get out and creeps all over the valley, as fast as the shadows of the running clouds. In the end, the narrator peels down the yellow wallpaper, thus releasing the Woman – and herself – for good.

Whom does the narrator see hiding in the wallpaper? She sees herself, although she doesn’t understand it. The narrator identifies as the Woman who is caged in the hated room like she is. The narrator is forced to hide her writing, her thoughts, and her true feelings. Just like her, the Woman from the wallpaper hides from people and creeps behind closed doors when nobody sees her. And the more exasperation the narrator suppresses, the more active the Woman becomes. In the end, the narrator comes to completely identify herself with the Woman, losing herself in the process.

🎓 References

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

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"Characters." IvyPanda, 29 June 2021, ivypanda.com/lit/the-yellow-wallpaper/characters/.

1. IvyPanda. "Characters." June 29, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/lit/the-yellow-wallpaper/characters/.


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IvyPanda. "Characters." June 29, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/lit/the-yellow-wallpaper/characters/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Characters." June 29, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/lit/the-yellow-wallpaper/characters/.

References

IvyPanda. (2021) 'Characters'. 29 June.