Caught in the Yellow Wallpaper
"The pattern is torturing. You think you have mastered it, but just as you get well underway in following, it turns a back-somersault and there you are. It slaps you in the face, knocks you down, and tramples upon you."
As her madness progresses the narrator in The Yellow Wallpaper becomes increasingly aware of a woman present in the pattern of the wallpaper. She sees this woman struggling against the paper's "bars". Later in her madness she imagines there to be many women lost in its "torturing" pattern, trying in vain to climb through it. The woman caught in the wallpaper seems to parallel the narrator's virtual imprisonment by her well-meaning husband. While the narrator's perception of the wallpaper reveals her increasing madness, it effectively symbolizes the struggle of women who attempt to break out of society's feminine standards.
The narrator writes furtively in her room, having to hide her writing from her family. They feel that her only road to recovery is through total R & R, that she should not have to lift a finger, let alone stimulate a single neuron in her female brain. While she appreciates their concern she feels stifled and bored. She feels that her condition is only being worsened by her lack of stimulus, but it is not simply boredom that bothers her. She is constantly feeling guilty and unappreciative for questioning her family's advice. This causes her to question her self-awareness and her own perception of reality. "I sometimes fancy that in my condition if I had less opposition and more society and stimulus; but John says the very worst thing I can do is to think about my condition, and I confess it always makes me feel bad." She also faults herself for not taking care of her home and family. Like Dickinson, she is caught up in the cobwebs of her society's ideology.
She has an immediate dislike for the wallpaper and at first studies it with the eye of a critical interior decorator. The pattern fascinates her and she becomes increasingly obsessed with uncovering its secrets. Eventually it becomes the center of her life and her only concern. On the most basic level, it is apparent that anyone who becomes obsessed with wallpaper and believes it to hold a world that people inhabit is insane. Looking deeper into what the narrator reads into the wallpaper, we can understand her more clearly. The woman she sees in the wallpaper struggling to break free of the bars seems to reflect and reinforce her own desire to leave the house. When she first writes of the woman shaking the wallpaper at night, trying to escape, this coincides with her attempt to convince her husband to take her away from the place. Neither woman is successful in breaking away and the narrator begins to read even more into the pattern. While outwardly and on a conscious level she accepts John's refusal to leave, she seems to be projecting her real anger and resentment onto the...