The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman




  • Written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, an American author
  • Seen as a piece of early Feminist literature
  • Sometimes seen as  Gothic as it includes themes of madness and powerlessness
  • First published in 1892 in New England Magazine
  • Contains attitudes towards women's mental and physical wellbeing.  
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Key Quotes: Freedom

  •   'He said that after the wall-paper was changed it would be the heavy bedstead, and then the barred windows, and then the gate at the head of the stairs'

The narrator is physically confined within the room, whilst her husband is free. This respresents both her mental confinement and her confinement as a woman in society.

  •  '"You know the place is doing you good," he said'

John created decisions on behalf of his wife, not giving her a voice or a choice in the matter. She is confined by her husband's opinions, and is not permitted to voice her own.

  •  'The faint figure behind seemed to shake the pattern, just as if she wanted to get out.' 

The narrator identifies with the woman behind the wallpaper and desires to free her. This is a symbol of the narrator freeing herself from the manipulative clutches of her husband, and alo represents the many other women suffering similar experiences.

  •  'I have locked the door and thrown the key down into the front path.'

By locking the door, the narrator has reversed gender roles,confining her husband whilst she remains in the room. Although the narrator is still confined, she is in control.

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Key Quotes: Madness

  •  'temporary nervous depression --a slight hysterical tendency--what is one to do?'

This quote illustrates the misogynistic opinions of the time in which this story was published. There was a general opinion that women had a tendency to be hysterical, and people were far more dismissive of mental health issues such as depression than they are now. The narrator accepts this reluctantly; she wishes to disagree but feels that she had no power to do so.

  •  'There is nothing so dangerous, so fascinating, to a temperament like yours.' 

John treats the narrator as if she is mad for voicing her opinions. This only makes her mental health worse as she is given no chance to recover or even acknowledge her condition.

  •  '"Bless her little heart" said he... "she shall be as sick as she pleases!"

It is somewhat disturbing to modern readers that the husband refers to his wife in third person, as if she is not even in the room. He is dismissive and ignorant twords her complaints, and treats her as if she were a stubborn child and not an ill woman.  

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Key Quotes: Gender

  • '[Jennie] is a perfect and enthusiastic housekeeper, and hopes for no better profession. I verily believe she thinks it is the writing which made me sick!'

Jennie conforms to the gender ideals on the time. She serves her duty as a housekeeper and refrains from voicing her own opinions, but simply agrees with those around her (many of which were male and saw women as an inferior gender).

  • 'I meant to be such a help to John... and here I am a comparative burden already!'

The narrator falls into the trap of blaming herself for her mental health problems; she understands what is expected of her as a wife yet cannot perform her duties. She feels as if she is not a good wife and yet the truth is that the fault resides in her husband, who is controlling and uncaring. 

  • 'It slaps you in the face, knocks you down and tramples upon you.'

The violent language of this quote indicates the narrator's hidden feelings towards the way her husband treats her; although he is not physically abusive, his behavior degrades her and makes her feel unworthy and inferior. In the wallpaper, she sees the confinement set upon her by John and tries persistently to understand the logic of it. 

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