Skip Nav

The Yellow Wallpaper Summary

From the SparkNotes Blog

❶Gilman used her writing to explore the role of women in America during the late s and early s. Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the Making of "The Yellow Wall-Paper" , concludes that "the story was a cri de coeur against [Gilman's first husband, artist Charles Walter] Stetson and the traditional marriage he had demanded.

Navigate Guide

The Yellow Wallpaper
by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
What Happens in The Yellow Wallpaper?

But according to Gilman, the short story was never intended as a Gothic horror, but rather as a cautionary tale about what supposed "rest cures" could do to the mental stability of patients. She sent a copy to the physician who had recommended a rest cure, and he subsequently changed his medical practices. It was not intended to drive people crazy, but to save people from being driven crazy, and it worked. It's easy to read "The Yellow Wallpaper" and feel a little smug.

After all, you're living in the 21st Century. Thing like leaving a someone alone for most of the day without any mental stimulation just doesn't happen these days, right? And if it does, it's certainly not done in someone's best interest, right? Um, the answer is "yes" and "no. The narrator of "The Yellow Wallpaper" spends a summer languishing mostly alone on a bed nailed down to the floor. And she does this on the orders of a well-meaning husband and a well-meaning doctor who, um, happen to be the same man.

Being essentially locked into a room with nothing to do was seen as the very best treatment against mental illness. And, as we see in this story, the treatment actually made its patients more unstable, not less. And even though the "rest cure" has gone the way of the velociraptor good riddance , there's still a cousin of the rest cure being used around the country, even today. We're talking about solitary confinement in prisons.

Later, when all the furniture has been removed from the room except for the gnawed and heavy bedstand, she locks the door and throws the key down onto the front drive, and then proceeds to tear and tear at the parts of the wallpaper she can reach. She begins to creep around the room in an endless circle, smudging the wallpaper in a straight groove.

John breaks into the room and discovers her, and faints at the sight. She continues to creep endlessly around the room, forced to go over his prone body. Sign In Sign Up. All Characters The Narrator John. Teach your students to analyze literature like LitCharts does. Detailed explanations, analysis, and citation info for every important quote on LitCharts.

The original text plus a side-by-side modern translation of every Shakespeare play. LitCharts From the creators of SparkNotes, something better. Download this Lit Guide! Retrieved September 13, She complains that her husband John, who is also her doctor, belittles both her illness and her thoughts and concerns in general.

She contrasts his practical, rationalistic manner with her own imaginative, sensitive ways. Her treatment requires that she do almost nothing active, and she is especially forbidden from working and writing.

As the first few weeks of the summer pass, the narrator becomes good at hiding her journal, and thus hiding her true thoughts from John. She mentions that John is worried about her becoming fixated on it, and that he has even refused to repaper the room so as not to give in to her neurotic worries. She mentions that she enjoys picturing people on the walkways around the house and that John always discourages such fantasies.

She also thinks back to her childhood, when she was able to work herself into a terror by imagining things in the dark. As she describes the bedroom, which she says must have been a nursery for young children, she points out that the paper is torn off the wall in spots, there are scratches and gouges in the floor, and the furniture is heavy and fixed in place.

As the Fourth of July passes, the narrator reports that her family has just visited, leaving her more tired than ever. John threatens to send her to Weir Mitchell, the real-life physician under whose care Gilman had a nervous breakdown.

Logging out…

Main Topics

Privacy Policy

At one point, she startles Jennie, who had been touching the wallpaper and who mentions that she had found yellow stains on their clothes. Mistaking the narrator’s fixation for .

Privacy FAQs

A good one-sentence summary of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story might read as follows: “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a highly ironic story that takes us inside the mind and emotions of a Please give the summary of "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

About Our Ads

The Yellow Wallpaper study guide contains a biography of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, literature essays, a complete e-text, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis. No wonder she becomes absolutely obsessed with the yellow wallpaper in her room—she's bored out of her mind. Literally, as it turns out. She begins fanatically tracing the pattern of the wallpaper and soon .

Cookie Info

This repellent yellow wallpaper becomes a major force in the story, as the narrator grows obsessed with deciphering its seemingly incomprehensible, illogical patterns. She continues to hide the diary from John, and grows more and more convinced that the wallpaper contains a . LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Yellow Wallpaper, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.