For centuries women in literature have been depicted as weak, subservient, and unthinking characters. Before the 19th century, they usually were not given interesting personalities and were always the proper, perfect and supportive character to the main manly characters. However, one person, in order to defy and mock the norm of woman characterization and the demeaning mindsets about women, Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote "The Yellow Wallpaper." This story, through well crafted symbolisms, brought to surface the troubles that real women face. Her character deals with the feeling of being trapped by the expectations of her husband, with the need to do something creative or constructive, and to have a mind and will of her own. These feelings are represented through various symbols in the story which include the wallpaper, the woman in the wallpaper, the mental sickness that progressed throughout the story, male presence/influence, moonlight/daylight, and the crazy pattern on the wallpaper.
The wallpaper in Gilman's story represents the unnamed narrator's repressed and trapped self. The side that is not liberated by insanity. It represents everything that she detests about her life; not being allowed to write, having to be a mother, and needing to be someone who John expects her to be. In this way, her immediate hatred of the wallpaper is fitting. The old saying that says a person always hates others for the things they hate about themselves applies to her hatred of the wallpaper. The yellowness of the wallpaper reminds her of her sickness because yellow is the color of jaundice and generally symbolizes inferiority, strangeness, cowardice, ugliness, and backwardness. Therefore, because she sees these things in herself, she hates the wallpaper.
As her mind continues to get sicker, or freer as some people might say, the narrator begins to see a creeping woman moving underneath the wallpaper which she so vehemently loathes. The two are alike in the fact that they are the only two characters in the story who are unnamed. This woman embodies the narrator and her feeling of being trapped under all of the things that the wallpaper represents. She also symbolizes a person who the narrator would like to be. This creeping woman does what she wants- she creeps around the room, in the moonlight, freely. She has no husband, or if she does, she is defying him by skulking around the room alone at night. I think that the narrator's mind realizes this significance because it eventually takes on the creeping woman's identity in the end.
The actual state of the narrator's sickness throughout the story is also symbolic of the narrator and more generally, women breaking free from society's stereotypes and expectations. Although she may only be breaking free through hallucinations and craziness, it is important because she is making a stand against the norms and expectations put upon her. Her insanity, for Gilman, represents feminist anger at society's rules...