The Yellow Wallpaper and Depression

“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s, is the story of a woman’s descent into insanity due to being secluded as a form of “treatment” when she’s truly suffering from a form of depression, post-partum. Gilman is also illustrating the story of how women were kept prisoners by the restrictions of their time and society.This paper will briefly delve into the theme and symbolism of the wallpaper.

This story begins with a narrator, whose name is never stated. Her husband, John has placed her in a remote country estate to deal with her behavioral issues. In order to treat her “temporary nervous depression,” John isolates her from her society. He orders her to do nothing but rest. He becomes troubled when she wishes to make writings. So much so that she is forced to do so in secret. John places her in the attic of the estate. In this, she becomes his dirty secret. There are bars placed upon her windows. Her bed is bolted down, it has been gnawed on, and the wallpaper has been torn off in patches. (Gilman 649)

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The narrator is confined to this room, day and night. In this time she begins to study the wallpaper: “. . . I determine for the thousandth time that I will follow that pointless pattern to some sort of conclusion.”(Gilman 650) “That pointless pattern” refers to the rigid pattern of oppression that women of Gilman’s day were expected to be subjected to. A woman of that era was the “property” of her father until she married. She then became the possession of her husband. Under him she had no legal rights or authority to determine what her life should entail.

As time passes the pointless pattern within the wallpaper begins to take on life to narrator, “There is a recurrent spot where the pattern lolls like a broken neck and two bulbous eyes stare at you upside down.” (Gilman 654) This is revealing of the fate of those reckless women who strayed from the path society had dictated for them. This was the fat…