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The Importance Of Setting In The Yellow Wall Paper By Charlotte Gilman

1356 words - 5 pages

The Importance of Setting in The Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Gilman

In the short story "The Yellow Wall-Paper," by Charlotte Gilman, the setting contributes to the narrator's insanity.  When she first sees the house, she loves it.  She thinks the house will be a perfect place to recover from her "nervous condition," but that does not happen because her husband confines her to the bedroom so that her health will improve.  The narrator's mental illness deteriorates to the point of insanity due to her isolation in the bedroom, with only the yellow wallpaper to look at that she considers "repellent, almost revolting; a smoldering unclean yellow,strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight" (106). 

At the beginning of the story, the narrator is moving into a house that she is renting while her house in being renovated.  She describes the house as "The most beautiful place!  It is quite alone, standing well back from the road, quite three miles from the village.  It makes me think of English places that you read about, for there are hedges and walls and gates that lock, and lots of separate little houses for the gardeners and people" (105).  This quote reflects that she considers this house as a place only the noble could live in.  She has only read about homes like this, and she never thought that she would be living in one.  She seems happy that she will be able to rent such a house.  She adds that "There is a delicious garden!  I never saw such a garden--large and shady, full of box-bordered paths, and lined with long grape-covered arbors with seats under them" (105).  This adds to the elegant and royal qualities that the narrator believes the house has.

In the middle portion of the story, the narrator's description of her surroundings changes, and she begins to notice the strange qualities that she sees in the wallpaper.  She said the following:

I wish I could get well faster.  But I must not think about that.  This paper looks to me as if it knew what a vicious influence it had!  There is a recurrent spot where the pattern lolls like a broken neck and two bulbous eyes stare at you upside down.  I get positively angry with the impertinence of it and the everlastingness.  Up and down and sideways they crawl, and those absurd, unblinking eyes are everywhere.  There is one place where two breadths didn't match, and the eyes go all up and down the line, one a little higher than the other. (107)

The narrator is being forced to stay in her room, and since there is nothing else to do, she starts looking for a pattern in the wallpaper.  She begins to see faces in the wallpaper, and it appears that the narrator's nervous condition has grown into something more serious.  Shortly after this occurs, she begins to see complete human figures in the wallpaper.  "This 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...

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