The Yellow Wallpaper is a short story by feminist writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman. She describes a young woman’s dramatic experiences. Her husband, John, prescribed her treatment for postpartum depression. It consisted of staying in a poorly furnished room with the yellow wallpaper. Meanwhile, the nurse Mary takes care of their newborn child.
In general, the nanny’s role is insignificant, as her name is mentioned only once in the story. The heroine notes that she is glad that Mary cares for her dear child. She also complains that she cannot be with the baby, which makes her nervous. Later, concern for the child’s fate is reflected in other lines of the heroine’s diary. She writes: “There’s one comfort, the baby is well and happy, and does not have to occupy this nursery with the horrid wallpaper.” She also notes, “I never thought of it before, but it is lucky that John kept me here, after all, I can stand it so much easier than a baby, you see.”
The heroine is afraid that the child could suffer the same fate as hers. The baby could also become a hostage of such walls. She is locked in an old colonial mansion in a rural wilderness. Her husband and his sister visit her only from time to time. The “treatment” is so devastating that it drives the heroine to a paranoid state. She rips off the wallpaper to free the woman behind it. Of course, this act is symbolic. But the reader can hardly recognize the peaceful and reasonable woman the heroine used to be.