The Yellow Wallpaper: Summary & Analysis

Summary & Analysis

Welcome to The Yellow Wallpaper Summary & Analysis page prepared by our editorial team! Here you’ll find detailed summaries of The Yellow Wallpaper’s entries, as well as analysis of every part of the short story.

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📖 The Yellow Wallpaper: Summary

The Yellow Wallpaper is written as a secret diary of a woman suffering from postpartum depression. As a means of treatment, she is forced to stay confined in a house with nothing to do.

With no stimulation to her mind, the narrator hyper-fixates on the ugly wallpaper in her room, which results in her eventual descent into madness.

🏡 Entries 1-3

In this section, you’ll find summaries of entries 1-3 of The Yellow Wallpaper.

The Yellow Wallpaper, Summary of Entry 1

A woman and her husband arrive in a lonely mansion three miles from the village to spend a summer there. The woman marvels at the low price they had to pay for it. She entertains herself by theorizing that the house is haunted. The narrator expresses her disappointment that her husband, John, who is practical in the extreme, wouldn’t hear a word about it. According to the woman, John is a physician of “high standard” who manages her treatment.

It appears that neither he, nor her brother, who is “also a physician and also of high standing,” think that the narrator is sick.

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“If a physician of high standing, and one’s own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression—a slight hysterical tendency—what is one to do?”

The Yellow Wallpaper, entry 1

She disagrees that the things she was prescribed, like vitamins, lots of fresh air, and no mental stimulation, do her any good. Writing the diary is her only way of clearing her mind. Still, having to do it in secret exhausts her because, if caught, she meets with “heavy opposition.”
Shifting her focus to the positives, the narrator provides a colorful description of the overgrown, “delicious” garden. She notes how it makes her think of England. The estate was once very grand and rich, having been abandoned for quite some time now due to inheritance problems. The woman feels there’s “something strange about the house,” addressing particular disquiet to the ugly yellow wallpaper in the room her husband chose for them. The room itself is big, sunny, and airy, occupying the entire upper floor. That is the main argument John uses to justify his refusal to change their living quarters. The woman hates the yellow wallpaper.

“I never saw a worse paper in my life. One of those sprawling flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin… The color is repellant, almost revolting; a smouldering, unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight.”

The Yellow Wallpaper, entry 1

The woman believes the room to be a former nursery or gymnasium since “the windows are barred for little children, and there are rings and things in the walls.” She thinks that children must have also hated the wallpaper: it’s stripped off in big patches all around the head of the bed. The entry ends with the woman’s husband approaching, making her halt and hide her writing.

Active Characters

The narrator, John

Active Themes

Feminism in The Yellow Wallpaper.Freedom of expression in The Yellow Wallpaper. Mental illness in The Yellow Wallpaper.
Feminism & GenderFreedom of ExpressionMental Illness

The Yellow Wallpaper, Analysis of Entry 1

From the very beginning of the story, it’s clear that the environment in which the woman exists is hostile and toxic. Surrounded by the seemingly well-meaning relatives, she nevertheless can trust neither her thoughts nor her feelings to those closest to her. She is banned from having an agency of her own.

In fear of being disregarded and scoffed at, she chooses to hide both her condition and her only means of relieving herself – writing. At the same time, being taught to be calm, agreeable, and convenient, the woman justifies such behavior towards her.

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“John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage.”

The Yellow Wallpaper, entry 1

The fact that the narrator is prejudiced against herself, seeing her judgment as inferior to her husband and brother, makes her unreliable. She feels that something is off:

“John is a physician, and perhaps – (I would not say it to a living soul, of course, but this is dead paper and a great relief to my mind) – perhaps that is one reason I do not get well faster.”

The Yellow Wallpaper, entry 1

Still, she will never doubt her husband and will choose to blame herself instead. That’s why she sometimes cannot understand her feelings. According to how she sees it, she shouldn’t have had them in the first place. The woman takes panes to control herself “before him, at least,” which she admits makes her very tired.

To make matters worse, the woman is a compassionate, imaginative, and artistic person. She craves to express herself and doesn’t spare the most colorful expressions to describe the house and the surroundings. At the same time, her utmost descriptive masterfulness is dedicated to the thing that genuinely captures her imagination – the yellow wallpaper. She finds it easier to get fixated on the one ugly thing in her surroundings. That is a signal that she is indeed in the wrong place.

The Yellow Wallpaper, Summary of Entry 2

Two weeks have passed since the first entry. The narrator is too weak to write. The only things that are expected of her, like dressing up and ordering things, are costing her great effort. Her husband is mostly away, days and nights. When he’s home, the narrator has to put on her best face and hide any signs of her illness, which exhausts her even more.

“John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no reason to suffer, and that satisfies him. Of course it is only nervousness. It does weigh on me so not to do my duty in any way!”

The Yellow Wallpaper, entry 2

She misses her baby, who is being looked after by a wet nurse, Mary. The woman feels guilty for not being able to help John and calls herself a burden. While the narrator is sick, Jennie, John’s sister, has taken up the role of the housekeeper. The narrator is hiding her writing from Jennie in the same manner as she’s hiding it from John.

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The woman craves action and companionship, which she doesn’t get from John or Jennie. She asks her husband to let her visit her favorite cousins. She is denied because they’re too “stimulating.” Her imagination is being taken over by the ugly yellow wallpaper, a story of atrocious color and design. She’s trying to take her mind off it. She focuses on how majestic the view from her room is, with the shady overgrown garden, the glistening bay, and the peaceful village. The narrator cannot entertain herself by imagining people walking there, though. John has told her that it is her imaginative power that makes her sick. Unable to distract herself in any way, she is drawn back to the yellow wallpaper. Again and again, she is interjecting her observations about it in between completely unrelated sentences. She knows what a bad influence the wallpaper is. But, upon confessing to her husband, she receives ridicule. He laughs at her and refuses to repaper the bedroom, calling her anxiety a mere whim. She agrees.

“I suppose John never was nervous in his life. He laughs at me so about this wallpaper! At first he meant to repaper the room, but afterwards he said that I was letting it get the better of me, and that nothing was worse for a nervous patient than to give way to such fancies.”

The Yellow Wallpaper, entry 2

The woman animates the wallpaper in her imagination, feeling like it’s watching her maliciously. She describes in great detail its crawling patterns that go nowhere, the bulbous eyes of the curls that don’t match each other, the irritating sub-pattern that can be seen only in a particular light. She notices how well the wallpaper is stuck to the walls and how persevering the children must have been when they were peeling it off. She also sees other details about the room: how the plaster is chipped, how the floor is splintered, how the wooden frame of the bed “looks as if it had been through the wars.” She doesn’t mind it a bit – “only the paper.” The entry ends with her having to hide her writing because Jennie is coming.

Active Characters

The narrator, John, Jennie, Mary

Active Themes

Feminism in The Yellow Wallpaper.Freedom of expression in The Yellow Wallpaper. Mental illness in The Yellow Wallpaper.
Feminism & GenderFreedom of ExpressionMental Illness

The Yellow Wallpaper, Analysis of Entry 2

In this entry, the narrator, for the first time, mentions that she’s a mother. One can deduce that the illness she is suffering from is postpartum depression. It’s apparent now that the woman is, at least partially, an autobiographical character.

Based on what one can learn in Charlotte Perkins Gilman‘s Why I Wrote The Yellow Wall-Paper, the narrator’s journey in the short story is a metaphor for the author’s own experience. The author and her character have the same background. They are both writers, come from a well-to-do family, and possess a vivid imagination. As explained by the author, Gilman suffered the same condition as her character in The Yellow Wallpaper. The treatment she was subjected to almost resulted in complete insanity. Thus, the short story is written as a cautionary tale for the physicians and the patients alike.

The themes that the short story tackles don’t concern just the poor treatment choices for mental patients, though. The way women are treated in the male-dominated society is one reason for the unfortunate ending of the story. Another one is the stigmatization of mental health issues by society and by the relatives of the patients in particular. It is such a shameful thing to happen that a husband chooses to pretend like nothing is wrong. He locks away his wife for good until the illness goes away. Of course, it doesn’t.

The narrator’s mental state is in decline. She cannot think straight, let alone carry out daily chores, with her thoughts constantly returning to the irritant. The perceived peacefulness of her life contrasts with her state of health. In the same way, the descriptions of the beautiful surroundings contrast with those of the yellow wallpaper’s abhorrence. Although the narrator is not physically locked up, she is starting to suffer from solitary confinement. She is denied social interactions and cannot confide in the only two people who are with her.

When she mentions her discomfort, she is gaslighted by her husband. The narrator is condescendingly called “a blessed little goose” when she tries to protest. Jennie, John’s sister, is too close to her brother. Jennie is stationed there not only to be the housekeeper but also to watch the narrator. So the woman has to hide from both when she wants to write. She was separated from her recently born child, which adds to her nervousness.

The Yellow Wallpaper, Summary of Entry 3

The narrator and her husband have had guests over for several days to celebrate the fourth of July. The narrator’s baby was not brought along. The company of the people left the woman tired out. John has a reason to consider professional help because his wife has been feeling visibly worse. She writes that she doesn’t feel as if “it is worthwhile to turn her hand over for anything”. She’s getting dreadfully fretful and querulous.

“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. Of course I don’t when John is here, or anybody else, but when I am alone.”

The Yellow Wallpaper, entry 3

She cries when she is alone, which she is “a good deal” these days because John is very busy in the city. “Jennie is good” and lets her alone when she wants her to. That may mean that Jennie is keeping her distance. The narrator spends most of her time lying down in the bedroom upstairs.

She has grown “really fond of the room despite the wallpaper – perhaps because of the wallpaper.” She spends her time fixating on what she hates and finding more and more elements of its ugliness. Knowing “a little of the principle of design,” she claims that the pattern “was not arranged on any laws of radiation, or alternation, or repetition, or symmetry, or anything else” that she has ever heard of. She calls it a “debased Romanesque” and confides how tired she feels after following those absurd curves and flourishes. She feels so tired she has to take a nap.

Active Characters

The narrator, John, Jennie

Active Themes

Mental illness in The Yellow Wallpaper.
Mental Illness

The Yellow Wallpaper, Analysis of Entry 3

John has earlier told his wife that the company of people might be too stimulating for her. Still, once a traditional family holiday comes up, he doesn’t hesitate to invite a crowd over. It is unclear whether the invited relatives know of the narrator’s condition. They might be guessing, but the ashamed husband will never let it out how severe the case is. He doesn’t even admit it to himself, believing that his wife is getting better, surely. She just imagines herself feeling worse. The narrator doesn’t recount it. However, one can deduce that she had to pretend that she was all right not just in front of her husband and Jennie. She had to do that in front of a whole group of people, 24/7. She had to play a good wife and a hospitable hostess, hiding her depression, which exhausted her tremendously.

The yellow wallpaper continues to dwell on the woman’s mind, more and more so. The narrator admits that she has grown fond of it because it offers her the mental exercise she is deprived of.

“I’m getting really fond of the room in spite of the wallpaper. Perhaps because of the wallpaper. It dwells in my mind so!”

The Yellow Wallpaper, entry 3

She also notes, for the first time, that the bed is immovable, nailed down. The other details about the room – the partially torn down wallpaper, the splintered floor, the barred windows, the metal rings in the walls, and the rampaged bed – all lead to the conclusion that the room used to be neither a nursery nor a gymnasium. No child would need such precautions, and no child would be able to cause such destruction. Everything points to the fact that the room was used to keep mentally deranged patients in it. The narrator can’t see it either because she’s never been to or read about a mental institution or because she has recently had a child. How much the husband knows about it and why he insisted on living in a room used for mentally unstable people is up for consideration.

😢 Entries 4-6

In this section, you’ll find summaries of entries 4-6 of The Yellow Wallpaper.

The Yellow Wallpaper, Summary of Entry 4

The narrator feels very tired and more depressed than ever, not being able to do anything. She forces herself to share her thoughts in the diary. Still, the activity doesn’t bring her any joy or relief anymore and only strains her further. She desperately wishes to visit her friends but cannot convince John to let her do it. She starts crying before she can finish her request.

“I tried to have a real earnest reasonable talk with him the other day, and tell him how I wish he would let me go and make a visit to Cousin Henry and Julia. But he said I wasn’t able to go, nor able to stand it after I got there,.. I was crying before I had finished.”

The Yellow Wallpaper, entry 4

John assures her that she should be saving her strength instead. The woman is fed all sorts of energizing foods and supplements, like cod-liver oil, tonics, ale, wine, and rare meat. Without being able to spend all this energy, her mind has no choice but to go back to the wallpaper. He also stresses how nobody can help her but herself. John is figuratively leaving the narrator alone in the face of her illness. He emphasizes that the woman should persevere for his sake, once again making her feel like she owes him.

The woman takes comfort in knowing that her child doesn’t have to live in the room with the wallpaper since she “can stand it so much easier than a baby.” This indicates that she is losing touch with reality, perceiving the yellow wallpaper as a real danger. It’s also worth noting that she is trying to see the positive sides, even in this sorry situation.

Active Characters

The narrator, John

Active Themes

Feminism in The Yellow Wallpaper.Freedom of expression in The Yellow Wallpaper. Mental illness in The Yellow Wallpaper.
Feminism & GenderFreedom of ExpressionMental Illness

The Yellow Wallpaper, Analysis of Entry 4

The narrator’s mental state grows worse. That is reflected by the creepy observations about the yellow wallpaper.

“Behind that outside pattern, the dim shapes get clearer every day.”

The Yellow Wallpaper, entry 4

That’s how the setting of The Yellow Wallpaper is often attributed to the Gothic horror genre. The woman starts developing both mania and hypochondria, being mistrustful of her relatives, stating that she is “too wise” now to tell them anything about “the same shape, only numerous in number” that lives behind the pattern and looks like a stooping down, creeping woman. The narrator seems to understand how wrong it is and desperately wants to leave the house.

The Yellow Wallpaper, Summary of Entry 5

The narrator starts this entry with the phrase that describes her entire relationship with her husband.

“It is so hard to talk with John about my case, because he is so wise, and because he loves me so.”

The Yellow Wallpaper, entry 5

The narrator has developed a habit of not sleeping at night. She just lies in bed and watches the wallpaper. She observes the woman creeping behind the pattern, shaking it like prison bars, and trying to get out. The narrator says that the wallpaper changes depending on the light, and for this reason, she watches it always. She has seen the wallpaper in all possible types of light now – sun, moon, candle, and lamp. She believes that the moonlight is the worst of all.

The narrator gets out of bed, wanting to make sure that the wallpaper is being shaken indeed. She wakes up her husband. He calls her back to bed, and the woman finally tries to reason with him. She desperately wants to do something about her worsening state. However, she has already learned to hide any discomfort throughout this time. Not wanting to cause inconvenience, she isn’t able to persuade John to move out. He tells her that the lease is up in three weeks, that the house they live in hasn’t been repaired yet, and that she is feeling much better now – he, a physician, can tell. When the woman tries to protest, he cuts her off by hugging her and laughing at her.

“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

Having no arguments left, the narrator just lies there, pretending to sleep and watching the yellow wallpaper.

Active Characters

The narrator, John, the woman

Active Themes

Feminism in The Yellow Wallpaper.Freedom of expression in The Yellow Wallpaper. Mental illness in The Yellow Wallpaper.
Feminism & GenderFreedom of ExpressionMental Illness

The Yellow Wallpaper, Analysis of Entry 5

Following through with his “saving strength” treatment, John started his wife’s recent habit of laying down after each meal. That affects her negatively, for, having too much energy, she doesn’t sleep and has to watch the wallpaper.

Now that she sees a woman behind the pattern, shaking it and trying to get out, the narrator’s mental state is deteriorating worse than ever.

She projects herself onto the woman behind the wallpaper, explaining her quiet behavior in the daytime and her rampant shaking at night by the fact that, in the sunlight, the wallpaper is too confusing. The narrator and the woman behind the pattern are both hypnotized by it and thus kept quiet.

The husband is oblivious to what is going on. He shoves away all of his wife’s weak arguments for leaving the house prematurely, insisting that she looks and feels much better. When she tries to imply that it’s not true for her mind, he abruptly cuts her off and forbids her to even think about it, let alone share her fears out loud. This makes the woman quiet, deepening the pit of loneliness she is in. The only thing left for her to do is to fixate on the ugliness of the wallpaper, which she does. The woman describes it in great detail, even the things that are not there, like the “interminable string of toadstools, budding and sprouting in endless convolutions,” or that the wallpaper changes drastically depending on the type of light that hits it.

The narrator concludes this entry by stating that she is starting to be afraid of John and Jennie. She believes that sometimes she catches them looking at the wallpaper and even touching it. Jennie justified it by complaining that the wallpaper stains John’s and his wife’s clothes yellow, which might mean that the wallpaper contains some sort of dangerous chemical which might be poisoning those who are breathing the air in the room with it.

“I have watched John when he did not know I was looking, and come into the room suddenly on the most innocent excuses, and I’ve caught him several times looking at the paper! And Jennie too. I caught Jennie with her hand on it once.”

The Yellow Wallpaper, entry 5

The Yellow Wallpaper, Summary of Entry 6

The diary entries are becoming increasingly short now. In this one, the woman says that she feels much better, quieter, and won’t tell her husband the reason for the world.

“Life is very much more exciting now than it used to be. You see I have something more to expect, to look forward to, to watch. I really do eat better, and am more quiet than I was.”

The Yellow Wallpaper, entry 6

The reason for her perceived well-being is, again, the yellow wallpaper. The narrator is completely fixated on it by now, desiring nothing more than to figure out that woman behind the pattern. She has a purpose now, mad as it is. The husband believes that his wife “flourishes” in spite of the wallpaper. He is convinced now that the treatment he has chosen is indeed valid. The woman doesn’t trust her husband anymore, fearing that he will take the wallpaper away if he learns that she feels good because of it. John, who has been suppressing her all this time, is now an enemy to her.

Active Characters

The narrator, the woman, Jennie

Active Themes

Mental illness in The Yellow Wallpaper.
Mental Illness

The Yellow Wallpaper, Analysis of Entry 6

The woman’s mental illness is progressing. The narrator doesn’t discern between reality and her hallucinations anymore. She used to understand that she was ill, depressed, and needed help. Now she genuinely believes that she is better, having found a purpose in her dull existence in the house.

🌚 Entries 7-9

In this section, you’ll find summaries of entries 7-9 of The Yellow Wallpaper.

The Yellow Wall-Paper, Summary of Entry 7

This entire entry is devoted solely to the yellow wallpaper. The woman once again describes its ugliest yellow, which makes her think of all the yellow things she has ever seen. She also mentions fungus growing and multiplying on the wallpaper before her very eyes. She is tired of trying to count the new shades of disgusting yellow and the constantly sprouting shoots of fungus.

There’s a new thing that she mentions – the smell. Drawing closer to autumn, the weather is getting worse. With the rains and the dampness in the air, the yellow wallpaper has started to smell. Its odor penetrates the entire house, pursuing the woman even outdoors. The smell is not unpleasant. It’s described as gentle, subtle, but awfully enduring, hanging over the narrator like a cloud at all times.

Active Characters

The narrator

Active Themes

Mental illness in The Yellow Wallpaper.
Mental Illness

The Yellow Wallpaper, Analysis of Entry 7

It’s hard to understand whether the smell is real or it’s the woman’s olfactory hallucination. The narrator cannot describe it with any word other than “yellow.” If it does exist, it’s another case for the theory that the yellow wallpaper may be toxic. The evaporating toxins are not so perceptible in dry, sunny weather but are more pronounced when it is damp.

The Yellow Wallpaper, Summary of Entry 8

The narrator describes her hallucinations, which are getting worse and have more action to them.

The woman behind the wallpaper is crawling now, on and on until she reaches one especially dark spot where she is shaking the pattern, trying to get out.

There are also heads that tried to get out but were strangled by the pattern. They hang upside down and have white eyes, which takes us back to the very first entry, where the woman admits feeling as if the wallpaper is watching her.

Active Characters

The narrator, the woman

The Yellow Wallpaper, Analysis of Entry 8

The hallucination of the woman trying to break out from her wallpaper prison is both the allusion to and the foreshadowing of what will happen. The imprisoned woman is precisely how the narrator feels, having to “crawl” in her cage round and round, day after day, desperately wanting to get out.

The Yellow Wallpaper, Summary of Entry 9

The narrator’s hallucinations have taken a turn. Now she sees that the woman behind the wallpaper gets out to creep around the room, the house, the garden, the neighborhood, and the open country, creeping as fast as the moving shadows of clouds. The creeping woman never does it in the sun, for “it must be very humiliating to be caught creeping by daylight.” The narrator says that she doesn’t blame her for not wanting to be caught creeping.

“I always lock the door when I creep by daylight. I can’t do it at night, for I know John would suspect something at once.”

The Yellow Wallpaper, entry 9

She doesn’t want John to see her creeping in fear that it will irritate him, especially that he is acting so “queer” now.

Active Characters

The narrator, John, the woman

Active Themes

Feminism in The Yellow Wallpaper.Freedom of expression in The Yellow Wallpaper.
Feminism & GenderFreedom of Expression

The Yellow Wallpaper, Analysis of Entry 9

The fact that John is acting “queer” may suggest that he has started noticing the changes in his wife, after all. The woman is actively trying to hide her weirdness, creeping only behind closed doors. The borders of socially acceptable and unacceptable behavior are being blurred for her since the least she is afraid of in case of being caught.

👹 Entries 10-11

In this section, you’ll find summaries of entries 10-11 of The Yellow Wallpaper.

The Yellow Wallpaper, Summary of Entry 10

The woman almost completely identifies herself with her hallucination now, thinking of ways to break or bend the pattern. She has also reached another level of hypochondria. She refuses to tell about some new wallpaper detail that she has noticed even in her diary.

“I have found out another funny thing, but I shan’t tell it this time! It does not do to trust people too much.”

The Yellow Wallpaper, entry 10

John has noticed the weirdness in his wife’s behavior and asks Jennie many professional questions. The latter, having no connection with the woman, cannot say much apart from “she sleeps a lot in the daytime.” John also asks questions to the woman herself, “pretending to be loving and kind.” To that, the narrator gives the following remark: “As if I couldn’t see through him!” The woman expresses her belief that it’s the wallpaper affecting both John and Jennie and making them behave like that, once again projecting her feelings on other people.

Active Characters

The narrator, John, Jennie

Active Themes

Freedom of expression in The Yellow Wallpaper. Mental illness in The Yellow Wallpaper.
Freedom of ExpressionMental Illness

The Yellow Wallpaper, Analysis of Entry 10

The fact that the woman is an even more unreliable narrator than before is particularly demonstrative of the rapidly developing mental disorder. She refuses to share her most private thoughts and observations. It might mean that the narrator’s old identity is now conflicting with the new identity of the woman from behind the wallpaper. The new identity is taking over. The new identity is sly and untrusting, and it will do what it takes to persevere.

The Yellow Wallpaper, Summary the Text of Entry 11

On the last day left to stay in the house, the narrator secures herself a night alone in the bedroom. Her husband is away. She tears off most of the wallpaper in the room. She does it to help the woman behind the pattern to get out. In the morning, she manages to assure Jennie that she “did it out of pure spite at the vicious thing” and that she is not to be disturbed until dinner. She wants to rest now that the room is so clean and roomy. She is actually planning to tie up the woman from behind the pattern with the rope she has hidden from Jennie to show the woman to John and to “astonish” him.

But later throughout the day, she begins to identify as the woman from behind the wallpaper, not wanting to go back behind the pattern when the night comes. She locks herself in, throws the key out of the window, tries to move the bed, and bites it in anger when she cannot.

“I don’t want to go outside. I won’t, even if Jennie asks me to. For outside you have to creep on the ground, and everything is green instead of yellow. But here I can creep smoothly on the floor, and my shoulder just fits in that long smooch around the wall, so I cannot lose my way.”

The Yellow Wallpaper, entry 11

She fastens herself with the rope so that they cannot drag her back behind the wallpaper. Then she proceeds to creep around the room until John comes and faints upon seeing the picture. The woman is displeased with it. For now, she is forced to creep over his unconscious body.

Active Characters

The narrator, John, Jennie

Active Themes

Freedom of expression in The Yellow Wallpaper. Mental illness in The Yellow Wallpaper.
Freedom of ExpressionMental Illness

The Yellow Wallpaper, Analysis of Entry 11

The purposeful ignorance of both John and Jennie to what was happening under their very noses resulted in this nerve-chilling conclusion to the story. John was so ashamed of his wife’s condition that he denied the mere fact that she had it, and Jennie just couldn’t bother less, leaving the woman be. The narrator couldn’t get a helping hand from anybody and was left to simmer in her own slowly deteriorating mind. Being persuaded by the professional confidence of her husband and her brother, being raised under the pressure of the society demanding a position of submission from a woman, she has no choice but to follow through.

One of the possible explanations of this is that the husband, John, is not ignorant of his actions. He is actually at least partially conscious of what he is doing, acting with a particular purpose. The proper term to describe this phenomenon is gaslighting. It’s the action of manipulating someone by psychological means into doubting their own sanity – driving somebody insane in this case.

There are several indicators that a person is being gaslighted, which include the following:

  • Telling a person that what they feel and believe is actually not true. “You see, he does not believe I am sick!”, “You know the place is doing you good!”.
  • Restricting a person’s freedom of actions. “He is very careful and loving and hardly lets me stir without special direction.”
  • Manipulation. “He said we came here solely on my account.”; “I must take care of myself for his sake.”
  • Denying a person social interactions and banning them from thinking for themselves. “I sometimes fancy that in my condition if I had less opposition and more society and stimulus – but John says the very worst thing I can do is to think about my condition.”
  • Belittling and downgrading. “Called me a blessed little goose,” “She shall be as sick as she pleases!”, “I would not be so silly as to make him uncomfortable just for a whim.”

The fact that the narrator follows directions in how and what she thinks is the indication of a so-called unreliable narrator. When the subject translates their impressions of the outside world through the lens of their own limited perception. For instance, the woman sees the room with the yellow wallpaper as a nursery or a gymnasium, which correlates with the fact that she has recently given birth and suffers from postpartum depression. That’s why she explains the rings in the walls and the nailed-down bed as measures against children hurting themselves.

The woman never makes the connection between her condition and the fact that such precautions are a bit excessive for a dormitory. In actuality, they look very much like living quarters for mentally ill people. This is also another cause for the “gaslighting” theory. Although the husband insists that there’s nothing wrong with his wife, it cannot be a coincidence that he chooses a house that used to be a mental institution. Another thing that is suspicious of him is that he doesn’t spend much time at home, being absent even at night, kept in the city by some mysterious “serious cases.” It might simply be that he is having an affair and seizes the opportunity to spend his time far away from her.

The fact that the woman is banned from seeing her own baby right after she has given birth is the cherry on the cake.

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