“There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me, or ever will” (Gilman 483). Using the central symbol of the wallpaper Ms. Gilman allows her protagonist, Jane, to articulate the state of her own mind via her obsession with the wallpaper of her room. The descriptions of the wallpaper change in complexity to reflect the degree with which the Jane’s mind has descended into psychosis. The wallpaper’s description also serves as a visual frame of reference for the reader as the main character begins to hallucinate.
When Jane arrives at the summer estate with her husband, a physician of some repute, she immediately begins to fantasize that the location is haunted, at the least strange, she can “feel it” (479). We begin to see that something is occurring with her mentally, that possibly she is the one feeling strange. “This is our first intimation that all is not right, though whether with the house, or with Jane, we have yet to be told. However, the fact that she tells us at the beginning that this is not a haunted house, suggests that the "queerness" will lie with her” (Kerr). This is again reinforced in the next lines when she confesses that she get “unreasonably angry” with her husband (479). She is sure that she “never use to be this way” (479). This is the effects of her suffering from postpartum depression, finally falling under a psychosis by story’s end.
Jane’s condition would have likely been an embarrassment her prominent husband and explains why he is personally treating instead of having referring her to another physician. We can surmise from the text she works as a writer, but has been “absolutely forbidden to work” until she is well again (478). She admits continuing to write, but has to hide the fact or face “heavy opposition” and she feels exhaust after words.
The room where Jane spends the majority of the story is described by her as a nursery, which with its barred windows, gate blocking the top of staircase, and bed nailed to the floor, is more than likely an institution of some sort (479). Here is when Jane first notices the wallpaper. She sees that the paper is torn off the walls “in great patches” and remarks that she’s “never saw a worst paper in my life” (479). Here her mind is rejecting the reality of the place where husband has brought her and finds a focus for her feelings in the wallpaper.
Soon Jane becomes fascinated the convoluted patterns that cover the wallpaper, but soon the patterns and convoluted lines begin to affect her emotional state. At times she is bothered by its “flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin” (480), which I believe is partially her own guilt at finding the pattern interesting, despite her husband‘s orders to not “work” (478). Jane becomes so obsessed with the paper, that she imbues it the ability to affect those viewing it, at times becoming seemingly sentient. She recalls a time during her childhood where the blank walls of her room gave her, “…more entertainment and...