Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote The Yellow Wallpaper in 1890 about her experience in a psychiatric hospital. The doctor she had prescribed her “the rest cure” to get over her condition (Beekman). Gilman included the name of the sanitarium she stayed at in the piece as well which was named after the doctor that “treated” her. The short story was a more exaggerated version of her month long stay at Weir Mitchell and is about a woman whose name is never revealed and she slowly goes insane under the watch of her doctor husband and his sister (The Yellow Wallpaper 745). Many elements of fiction were utilized by Gilman in this piece to emphasize the theme freedom and confinement. Three of the most important elements are symbolism, setting and character.
The first example of an element of fiction used in The Yellow Wallpaper is symbolism. One symbol is the room. There is are bars on the windows to make the reader feel that the narrator is more than likely staying in psychiatric holding room than a room where she can get over her anxious condition. In most sanitariums, there are bars on the windows. The narrator’s husband went against her wishes to stay in the room downstairs with open windows and a view of the garden and put her in a barred prison cell contributing to the theme freedom and confinement. The second symbol is the bed. The bed is big, chained, and nailed to the floor. The reader could say the bed symbolizes sexual repression because a bed is where it happened during the 1900s and with a bed of such large size being nailed and chained down can represent sexual repression.
The third symbol is the most important symbol of all and that is the ugly yellow wallpaper the narrator has to spend her time staring at and in the end goes completely crazy. At first, it seems innocently unpleasant: it is ripped, discolored, water-stained, and an “unclean yellow” repugnant wallpaper that needs to be torn down. The confusing pattern intrigues narrator as she attempts to figure out how it is organized. As time goes and the more locked in the room her husband put her in, the more she stares at the paper and soon starts to believe there is something behind it but only visible in the moonlight. That something behind the wallpaper, to the narrator anyway, is a woman crawling and digging, desperate for a way out.
The woman wants to be free. The reader can quickly connect the woman in the wallpaper and the narrator together. To the narrator she is in the same position; she wants out, away from controlling protagonists that are keeping them “safe” from the outside world. No matter what the narrator said to her husband he never believed her. That is until he walks in on her crawling around on the floor. The narrator shows the reader that the results of being locked in has finally made her lose her mind. The “rest cure” that Gilman underwent that was supposed to make her better made the narrator worse. What the narrator tells her husband before he faints...