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The Yellow Wall Paper


The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman


"The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a profound short story that delves into themes of mental health, gender roles, and the power of storytelling. The narrative is presented as a series of journal entries by a woman undergoing a rest cure for what her husband, a physician, diagnoses as a "temporary nervous depression." Set in the late 19th century, the story reflects the limited understanding and treatment of women's mental health issues during that era.

Main Characters

  • Narrator: A woman confined to an old nursery as part of her treatment.
  • John: The narrator's husband and doctor, embodying the rational and dismissive attitudes of the time towards women's mental health.
  • Jennie: John's sister, who helps maintain the household.

Plot Overview

The story unfolds in a secluded mansion where the narrator is confined to an old nursery with a disturbing yellow wallpaper. She becomes obsessed with the wallpaper's pattern, perceiving it as a symbol of her own mental entrapment. As the story progresses, her fascination turns into a hallucination of a woman trapped within the wallpaper, mirroring her own sense of imprisonment.

Key Themes

  1. Mental Health: The story critiques the 19th-century medical practices and societal norms that often undermined women's mental health.
  2. Gender Roles: It highlights the oppression of women through the protagonist's struggles against her husband's control and the societal expectations of her time.
  3. Symbolism of the Wallpaper: The yellow wallpaper itself becomes a powerful symbol of the narrator's deteriorating mental state and her struggle for autonomy.


Gilman uses the narrator's descent into madness as a powerful critique of the patriarchal medical practices of her time. The story is also a feminist text, highlighting the need for women's autonomy and the acknowledgment of their mental health struggles.


"The Yellow Wallpaper" is a timeless piece that resonates with contemporary discussions on gender and mental health. Its haunting narrative and symbolic use of the yellow wallpaper serve as a poignant critique of the historical treatment of women's mental health.