Summary and Analysis of "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Stetson

Essay details

Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.

Table of Contents

  • Dramatic Irony
  • Sympathy
  • Symbolism

The theme in this story is freedom and women being trapped in relationships with their significant other. The message for change in the story is that women can break the stereotype and do not have to be forced into a marriage. The message for change starts when she writes behind her husband’s back even though he doesn't want her to. It finishes with the last day of the treatment and John is coming back to check on her.

The narrator was moved into an old abandoned nursery home by her husband who is also her physician. He takes care of her in the house, but he tells all of her loved ones that she will be fine and that she isn’t really sick. However she thinks otherwise. She was diagnosed with temporary nervous depression. The room that she was in had hideous wallpaper that she hated so much she wanted to move downstairs, however John, her husband wouldn’t let her. She continues to show her displeasure towards the wallpaper. She explained how the wallpaper had scratches all over as if “boys school had used it.” She continues to say how ugly the wallpaper is saying “I never saw a worse paper in my life” and “one of those sprawling flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin.” She wanted to john to redew the wallpaper, but john said that she's letting her imagination get the best of her. The thesis in this story is that women don’t have to follow the societal stereotype and marry early or at all, they can do what they want with their life.

Essay due? We'll write it for you!

Any subject

Min. 3-hour delivery

Pay if satisfied

Get your price

The inciting moment in The Yellow Wallpaper is when the narrator disagrees with the mental treatment that her husband has her doing. She believes that if he would allow her to do a little bit of writing it would help her take her mind away from what she's going through. “So I take phosphates or phosphites- whichever it is, and tonics, and journeys, and air, and exercise, and am absolutely forbidden to “work” until I am well again. Personally, I disagree with their ideas. Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good.” This shows her displeasure for what John has her doing and the fact that she beliefs that if she could work, her mental state might improve.

The rising action in this story is when the narrator starts to write journals despite of john and his sister. John believes that if she writes she's letting her mental fancies get the best of her and it will only make her condition get worse. In these personal journals she first wrote about how they first moved into this place, then about how something just wasn’t right about the house. However it quickly switched to her explaining how ugly the wallpaper is. As you move through the story, she starts to talk more and more about this wallpaper, it seems to turn into more of an obsession. She talks about how she thinks she sees someone through the wallpaper. At night she believed that there was someone behind the wallpaper shaking it and that's why when she woke up in the morning the patterns were in different spots.

It was the last day of them staying in the house as part of her treatment. John was gone overnight with a client so he wouldn’t be back until the evening. She waited for night time until the person would start to shake the wallpaper. As soon as it started shaking, she ran over to the wall and started peeling as much of the wallpaper as she could to try to free whoever was behind it. She finally broke out the women on all fours and realized that she is now free. She saw all the creeping women outside and wondered if they had come out of the wallpaper just like her. She continued to creep around the room. Then John came knocking, she told him that the key is under the leaf, that silenced him for a few minutes. He finally got the key and walked and he asked what she was doing? She replied that she had finally got out in spite of you and Jane, and that she had pulled of the wallpaper and you can’t put her back.” Falling Action When john walks in he sees her creeping around and that she has escaped the wallpaper and got her freedom back, he cannot believe it. So, John faints in front of her in disbelief. She continues to creep around the room stepping over John every time.

She breaks free of the wallpaper and starts to creep around the room. After john has fainted she steps over him multiple times and refers to him as young man. Referring to the fact that he cannot control her anymore and that now he is the one who is mentally fragile not her.

The mood in the story is mostly sad and depressing because she can’t do anything due to her mental state and the fact that for the treatment to work, she isn’t allowed to do anything that may cause her distress or exhaust her. Due to this, the narrator for most of the story is sad and depressed about her situation. The atmosphere is mostly eerie, this is reinforced by the house that they are staying in. She even says that “there is something strange about the house, i can feel it.” This helps reinforce the fact that she is suffering from mental illness and how this abandoned house is a symbol of how women were treated in this time period. The house shows that women weren’t taken very seriously especially when it came to mental health.

The narrator reinforces the message for change by not listening to john. For example, she keeps a secret personal journal that she writes in everyday when John isn’t around. At the end of the story when she breaks out of the wallpaper, she shows her freedom by creeping around and not caring when john will do or think about what she is doing.

Dramatic Irony

John doesn’t quite understand how sick the narrator is, but the reader knew the whole time. This shows how John wasn’t taking her case very seriously which was very common with women in this time period. They were thought to be mentally fragile so most of the time men didn’t think they were actually sick. It also shows how John was taking his other patients way more seriously then his loved ones. Foreshadowing- “I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes. I’m sure I never used to be so sensitive. I think it is due to this nervous condition.” This is showing that she is clearly very sick and it's only a sign of things to come. This foreshadows to the fact that she is slowly becoming mentally insane and things will only get worse.


“I wish I could get well faster.” This shows that she assuming that she will get better eventually not realizing what could happen. It also makes the reader feel bad for the narrator because she is mentally sick, which most of us can’t relate to.


The house that they are staying in is a symbol of how women back in the day were treated with mental illness. In this story, she is put in an old abandoned house, her room and the wallpaper were scratched and are very ugly which displeases her a great deal and doesn’t help her mental state. This showed what women went through when getting treated for mental illness in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s.

The story “The Yellow Wallpaper”, by Charlotte Perkins Stetson demonstrates a feminist perspective because it reinforces the fact that women are free individuals with a choice and they do not need controlling husbands to guide them through their struggles and accomplishments. Stetson shows this through the main character, the narrator who at the start of the story always obeys her husband, she begins to rebel from what he wishes her to do once she realizes that there is no one she can really talk to and how he isn’t taking her case very seriously and focusing on other patients. For example a lot of time he would stay overnight with patients, helping them get through their struggles. However he rarely did this with his wife. “John is kept in town by serious cases.” This shows that John doesn’t believe her case is very serious. That demonstrates that since he thinks he's mentally fragile, she's not really suffering from a mental illness. “There comes John, and I must put this away, he hates for me to write a word.” This shows how her husband, John dictated what she did on a daily basis and only allowed her to do certain things. Once she realizes that there isn’t really anyone to talk to, she lets her mind and imagination be free, which is exactly what John didn’t want her doing. “And it is like a woman stooping down and creeping about behind that pattern. I do not like it a bit.” She is referring to the wallpaper and there isn’t anybody behind the wallpaper but her imagination is getting the best of her and taking over her mental state. Finally at the end of the story when she finally breaks out of the wallpaper and John comes in and faints. “I’ve got out at last, in spite of you and Jane? And I’ve pulled of the paper, so you can’t put me back! Now why should that man have fainted?” This shows that now she has escaped, she believes she is finally free from her controlling husband. She refers to him as that man which means that she believes that he is now the mentally fragile one not her, breaking the societal stereotype. The author believes that women were oppressed due to the patriarchal society, and the beliefs and norms that men had within our society.

Get quality help now

Prof Saney

Verified writer

Proficient in: Literature

4.9 (316 reviews)
“He was able to complete the assignment following all directions in an elaborate manner in a short period of time. ”

+75 relevant experts are online

More The Yellow Wallpaper Related Essays

banner clock
Clock is ticking and inspiration doesn't come?
We`ll do boring work for you. No plagiarism guarantee. Deadline from 3 hours.

We use cookies to offer you the best experience. By continuing, we’ll assume you agree with our Cookies policy.