Imagery in literature brings a story to life for the reader. It draws the reader in and surrounds them with the environment of the narrative. The use of imagery will make the reader fully understand the circumstances under which the characters of a story live. In "The Yellow Wallpaper", by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the narrator of the story often describes the wallpaper, each time giving more details. The vivid descriptions allow the reader into the psyche of the narrator, which illustrates her ever-deepening mental illness. The imagery presented in the wallpaper through the narrator's words show her descent into insanity coupled with her desire for independence.
The narrator has been prescribed the rest cure as a treatment for her hysteria, which in reality is probably postpartum depression. She is not allowed to have any physical stimulation and, as such, only observes details of her environment. The wallpaper, in the beginning of the story, is described as "flamboyant" and "the color revolting" (793). This is little more than a minute detail in the narrator's description of the home in which the family is vacationing.
The narrator's detailed description of the wallpaper makes the reader understand the woman is well educated and has a keen eye for detail. The wallpaper evokes an emotional response from her, such as her statement, "It is dull enough to confuse the eye in following, pronounced enough to constantly irritate and provoke study . . . " (793).
Signs of the depth of the narrator's mental illness are presented early in the story. The woman starts innocently enough with studying the patterns of the paper but soon starts to see grotesque images in it, "There is a recurrent spot where the pattern lolls like a broken neck and two bulbous eyes stare at you upside down" (795). This evokes an image of a hung person, someone who is stymied, much as the narrator sees herself because she has been forbidden physical activity of any kind and as she herself is in a suspended state. The mention of eyes within the paper shows the narrator feels she is being watched closely by the other members of the household.
The imagery of the wallpaper takes on more significance as the narrator's illness severely deepens. The images the narrator sees in the wallpaper become more defined to her as she studies it, "The wall-paper has a kind of sub-pattern in a different shade, a particularly irritating one, for you can only see it in certain lights, and not clearly then. But in the places where it isn't faded and where the sun is just so - I can see a strange, provoking, formless sort of figure, that seems to skulk about behind that silly and conspicuous front design" (795). This statement is one of the first hints the narrator may be experiencing hallucinations and her mind is starting to fragment. The narrator is starting to see herself as overpowered by her illness and feels the weight of the burdens she is placing on her family and herself;...