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The Yellow Wallpaper Summary Analysis and Explanation in English
About the Author charlotte Perkins Gilman
|Poet Name||Charlotte Perkins Gilman|
|Born||3 July 1860, Hartford, Connecticut, United States|
|Died||17 August 1935, Pasadena, California, United States|
|Education||Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)|
|Spouse||Houghton Gilman (m. 1900–1934), Charles Walter Stetson (m. 1884–1894)|
Summary of The Yellow Wallpaper in English
Charlotte Perkins The Yellow Wallpaper Book Summary Introduction
The Yellow Wallpaper is a short story or a novella written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The short story starts with the narrator of the tale gushing over a beautiful house and the grounds surrounding. It’s a house that she and her husband are going to stay for the summer.
Her way of describing the large and grand house is different from how you would otherwise describe a home. The first way in which she describes the house is in a very romantic way as she is pleased with the vast choice of residence. The other way that she represents the house is that maybe it’s a haunted house. One question that she continually keeps wondering about is, “How are they able to afford the house?”.
She wonders how they were able to afford the house and why there wasn’t anyone living in the house earlier? As she is pondering, she starts thinking about her sickness, and she is suffering from “Nervous depression” and her marriage. Her husband, John, is treating her for her disease.
She starts complaining about how her husband doesn’t respect her thoughts, opinions, and her sickness. She and her husband have different sets of reflections while she has imaginative and sensitive. John is rational and practical. For her to get well from her condition, she needs to refrain from doing any activities, especially working and writing. However, the narrator feels the opposite and believes that doing things will improve her condition. She starts keeping a “secret journal” where she starts writing about the house and the various elements in the house.
One of the things that disturb her is the yellow wallpaper in her room. She has a weird feeling about the wallpaper as it is old and strange. She describes the wallpaper as a revolting item. While she is writing, she gets interrupted by John, so she stops writing.
The narrator keeps doing this for a while, and with her journals, she hides her thoughts from John. She keeps desiring for the company and chances to do more activities. Then, she starts complaining about the way John has control over her life and the restrictions that he has put on her life. She starts talking about the wallpaper again and starts describing it differently.
In the beginning, she got a weird and revolting feeling from it, but now she finds it intimidating. She starts talking about how John has started thinking that she is fixated on the wallpaper. He refused to change the wallpaper because it may impact her nervous depression. However, the narrator begins thinking about the wallpaper more and more. She starts imagining more and more things as the summer days pass. While thinking about the wallpaper, she starts imagining or picturing people walking around the house. It’s precisely the kind of things that John doesn’t want her to do and keep discouraging her from this kind of activity.
Among the things that the narrator thinks and imagines, she starts thinking about her childhood. When she was a child, the narrator used to believe something that used to result in her having night terrors. She comes back to the wallpaper in the bedroom. While she starts thinking about, she realizes that it must have been a nursery for children. She decides this because the furniture in the room is fixated and heavy. The apartment has scratches and other things that point out that it was a nursery.
As she starts seeing the sub-design of the wallpaper and writing about it, she gets disturbed again. This time, she is not worried about John. Instead, it’s his sister, Jennie, who is living with them. Jennie is the housekeeper while they are staying there, and she’s also the narrator’s nurse.
The narrator records that for the Fourth of July, her family visited them at their beautiful house. Their visit has felt her more tired than she already was before their appointment. This makes John threaten her about sending her off to Gilman, the physician under whom she had a nervous breakdown. The narrator starts talking about how she is alone at home almost all the time, and the only thing that interests her is the wallpaper.
Her obsession keeps growing as the sub-design of the wallpaper of her bedroom keeps becoming clear. She describes it as “a woman who is stopping down and creeping”. This is the sub-pattern of the wallpaper, and the main design is like a cage. As her obsession is growing, she keeps trying to ask John about when they would leave the house. He keeps silencing her, and this makes her stop. With every time he silences her, her fascination and obsession with the wallpaper keep growing.
The wallpaper is the only thing that the narrator thinks about, and it dominates her mind. Along with her journal, she starts hiding her obsession with the wallpaper, too, from John and Jennie. She wants to find the pattern on the wallpaper on her own. She finds Jennie looking at the wallpaper, and Jennie says that she found the yellow stains from the wallpaper on their clothes.
John thinks that the narrator is healing because she is a serine mood around them. However, the opposite is happening with the narrator because she starts sleeping less and less. The narrator begins imaging that can smell the paper everywhere around the house. Soon she sees a smudge mark on the wallpaper, which makes her assume that someone has rubbed it while crawling against the wallpaper. The sub-wallpaper looks like a woman trying to free herself of the main wallpaper.
The narrator starts imagining the woman trying to get out of the cage and she is free in the day. She mentions how she too sometimes creeps around the house. The narrator feels like John and Jennie know about her obsession. As soon as she starts feeling this, she decides that she is going to remove the wallpaper. She starts peeling off the wallpaper in the nights. Finally, as she is removing the wallpaper, she feels alone and also likes the woman finally got freedom who seesaw struggle in the pattern.
At the end of the story, the narrator starts going insane, and she starts imagining more women creeping around her. She feels like she was the woman in the wallpaper and starts feeling trapped. It this feeling that makes her creep around the room endlessly, and she keeps smudging the wallpaper. In the end, John has to break into the room, and the sight in front of him makes him faint. Therefore, the narrator has to creep around him every time.
What is the moral of The Yellow Wallpaper?
The moral of the story “The Yellow Wallpaper” is that lack of activity and mental stimulation worsens, rather than cures, a woman’s depression. The story illustrates that women should be treated as intelligent partners in devising a cure for their own mental illness, not treated as children.
Is The Yellow Wallpaper based on a true story?
Chastity Chapin, M.F.A. Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” draws from experiences that Gilman herself faced, but it is fiction rather than an entirely true story. After having a baby, Gilman suffered from what today would probably be called postpartum depression.
What really happens at the end of The Yellow Wallpaper?
At the end of the story, the narrator believes that the woman has come out of the wallpaper. This indicates that the narrator has finally merged fully into her psychosis, and become one with the house and domesticated discontent…
What does The Yellow Wallpaper symbolize in The Yellow Wallpaper?
The yellow wallpaper symbolizes the oppression that many women of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s generation felt
under the institution of marriage.
Why does John faint at the end of The Yellow Wallpaper?
The reason for John to faint at the end of the story is his shock provoked by the wife’s mental state. He prescribes the “rest therapy” to eliminate any distressing events that could worsen his wife’s depression.
What was wrong with the woman in The Yellow Wallpaper?
The narrator in “The Yellow Wallpaper” is likely suffering from depression and likely from postpartum psychosis (at least in part) because of the young baby mentioned in the story. She finds that she cannot take care of her baby and has no desire to be near him, as his presence makes her “nervous.”