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The Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman | Summary & Analysis


Although Gilman is trying to portray the life of an und female narrator in the story, the emphasis is still on the yellow wallpaper. Indeed, there must be a reason why the story is entitled “The Yellow Wallpaper” and that it is because this yellow wallpaper reflects the pain, struggles, and suffering of the unnamed female narrator. Nevertheless, the yellow wallpaper is also symbolic of her false freedom in the end.

The yellow wallpaper is described as “unclean” and “horrid” (Gilman), which reveals to the reader what kind of life the narrator actually lives with her husband John but she tries to hide this or at least she does not mention anything about it. She even seems to justify this suffering by considering it as a part of the culture: “John laughs [at her]…but one expects that in marriage” (Gilman). Nevertheless, the rest of the lines demonstrate the female narrator’s inferiority and submission to her husband’s will: the figure of a woman forming on the yellow wallpaper and “stooping down and creeping about” and one which is more like “a strange, provoking, formless sort of figure, that seems to skulk about…” (Gilman). Nevertheless, this figure, just like the woman, seems to want to escape – it “seemed to shake the pattern, just as if she wanted to get out” for at night, the figure in the yellow wallpaper seems to be behind “bars” (Gilman). Finally, the figure finds a chance to escape but it is the female narrator who acts out that role as she starts to “creep smoothly on the floor” and “creep over [John’s unconscious body] every time” (Gilman). Finally, she gets out of the yellow wallpaper and she seems free, but is this really true freedom?

There is actually no freedom in Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.” The narrator turns insane in the end, and everything that she has imagined from the yellow wallpaper are all part of her insanity and hallucinations. There is, therefore, no freedom beyond the yellow wallpaper because although she is now free from her emotional suffering, it is now insanity’s turn to control her. The point of Gilman’s story is that some great things can be had only at a great cost. In the story, the female woman desires separation and freedom only to end up mentally ill.

Works Cited
Gilman, Charlotte P. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Electronic Text Center. n.d. The University of Virginia Library. 8 Mar 2011.

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