The very popular short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper” written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a compelling story of a woman with a mental illness. Every aspect of this story contributes to its success, including the characters and their interactions, the plot, setting, the most apparent symbols, the point of view used, and the overall message of the story. This story is a great representation of mental illness in the time when it was written – misunderstood, and feared.
“The Yellow Wallpaper” is about a woman who is struggling with what we now know is post partum depression. She is in the middle of a nervous breakdown, where her husband, who is also her doctor, moves her into a house away from her life so that she may get some “rest.” This resting treatment consists of literally nothing; no writing, no drawing, just resting. In fact this rest drove her insane, and she suffered a complete break from reality (Trimmer).
The two main characters in the story are the narrator, and her husband John who is her doctor. These characters greatly affect the story in many ways. On top of the narrator who is instrumental, because it is her story, without John the narrator would have never been prescribed the resting treatment and would have eventually escaped her depression by creative expression. Without John, the writing style of the story would be much different. Because the narrator was not allowed to do anything but rest, she had to sneak in bits of writing between times that she saw him.
The plot greatly affects the story. The narrator has recently had a child and is suffering from post-partum depression. When her husband moves her to a new home for the summer, he thinks it is best to keep her alone in an upstairs room for the sake of her mental health. Here she will have no stressful distractions and will be able to rest. Without any stimulation, besides her journal and the yellow wallpaper, the she begin to break from reality (Cangialosi).
The narrator obsesses over the pattern of the yellow wallpaper. “The color is hideous enough, and unreliable enough, and infuriating enough, but the pattern is torture” (Gilman). Besides hating everything about the wallpaper, she begins to see that a woman is walking around the room behind it, attempting to break free. The narrator begins to tear down pieces of the wallpaper to rescue the woman. Without the plot, the woman and her husband would have never moved away for the summer, the woman would have never met the woman behind the yellow wallpaper, and she would have never realized that her relationship with her husband is toxic, unhealthy and is not true love (Cangialosi). The setting of this story is the very thing that drove the narrator insane, thus also making it instrumental to the story. Without the house and the yellow wallpaper, the narrator would have never gone insane.
The greatest symbol in “The Yellow Wallpaper” is the woman behind the wallpaper. The woman stuck in the wallpaper is a symbol for...