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Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s classic short story, "The Yellow Wallpaper" tells the story of a young woman’s gradual descent into psychosis. " The Yellow Wallpaper" is often cited as an early feminist work that predates a woman’s right to vote in the United States. The author was involved in first-wave feminism, and her other works questioned the origins of the subjugation of women, particularly in marriage. "

The Yellow Wallpaper" is a widely read work that asks difficult questions about the role of women, particularly regarding their mental health and right to autonomy and self-identity. We’ll go over The Yellow Wallpaper summary, themes and symbols, The Yellow Wallpaper analysis, and some important information about the author.

"The Yellow Wallpaper" Summary

"The Yellow Wallpaper" details the deterioration of a woman's mental health while she is on a "rest cure" on a rented summer country estate with her family. Her obsession with the yellow wallpaper in her bedroom marks her descent into psychosis from her depression throughout the story.

The narrator of "The Yellow Wallpaper" begins the story by discussing her move to a beautiful estate for the summer. Her husband, John, is also her doctor , and the move is meant in part to help the narrator overcome her “illness,” which she explains as nervous depression, or nervousness, following the birth of their baby. John’s sister, Jennie, also lives with them and works as their housekeeper.

Though her husband believes she will get better with rest and by not worrying about anything, the narrator has an active imagination and likes to write . He discourages her wonder about the house, and dismisses her interests. She mentions her baby more than once, though there is a nurse that cares for the baby, and the narrator herself is too nervous to provide care.

The narrator and her husband move into a large room that has ugly, yellow wallpaper that the narrator criticizes. She asks her husband if they can change rooms and move downstairs, and he rejects her. The more she stays in the room, the more the narrator’s fascination with the hideous wallpaper grows.

After hosting family for July 4th, the narrator expresses feeling even worse and more exhausted. She struggles to do daily activities, and her mental state is deteriorating. John encourages her to rest more, and the narrator hides her writing from him because he disapproves.

In the time between July 4th and their departure, the narrator is seemingly driven insane by the yellow wallpaper ; she sleeps all day and stays up all night to stare at it, believing that it comes alive, and the patterns change and move. Then, she begins to believe that there is a woman in the wallpaper who alters the patterns and is watching her.

A few weeks before their departure, John stays overnight in town and the narrator wants to sleep in the room by herself so she can stare at the wallpaper uninterrupted. She locks out Jennie and believes that she can see the woman in the wallpaper . John returns and frantically tries to be let in, and the narrator refuses; John is able to enter the room and finds the narrator crawling on the floor. She claims that the woman in the wallpaper has finally exited, and John faints, much to her surprise.


Background on "The Yellow Wallpaper"

The author, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, was a lecturer for social reform, and her beliefs and philosophy play an important part in the creation of "The Yellow Wallpaper," as well as the themes and symbolism in the story. "The Yellow Wallpaper" also influenced later feminist writers.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, known as Charlotte Perkins Stetsman while she was married to her first husband, was born in Hartford, CT in 1860. Young Charlotte was observed as being bright, but her mother wasn’t interested in her education, and Charlotte spent lots of time in the library.

Charlotte married Charles Stetsman in 1884, and her daughter was born in 1885. She suffered from serious postpartum depression after giving birth to their daughter, Katharine. Her battle with postpartum depression and the doctors she dealt with during her illness inspired her to write "The Yellow Wallpaper."

The couple separated in 1888, the year that Perkins Gilman wrote her first book, Art Gems for the Home and Fireside. She later wrote "The Yellow Wallpaper" in 1890, while she was in a relationship with Adeline Knapp, and living apart from her legal husband. "The Yellow Wallpaper" was published in 1892, and in 1893 she published a book of satirical poetry , In This Our World, which gained her fame.

Eventually, Perkins Gilman got officially divorced from Stetsman, and ended her relationship with Knapp. She married her cousin, Houghton Gilman, and claimed to be satisfied in the marriage .

Perkins Gilman made a living as a lecturer on women’s issues, labor issues, and social reform . She toured Europe and the U.S. as a lecturer, and founded her own magazine, The Forerunner.


"The Yellow Wallpaper" was first published in January 1892 in New England Magazine.

During Perkins Gilman's lifetime, the role of women in American society was heavily restricted both socially and legally. At the time of its publication, women were still twenty-six years away from gaining the right to vote .

This viewpoint on women as childish and weak meant that they were discouraged from having any control over their lives. Women were encouraged or forced to defer to their husband’s opinions in all aspects of life , including financially, socially, and medically. Writing itself was revolutionary, since it would create a sense of identity, and was thought to be too much for the naturally fragile women.

Women's health was a particularly misunderstood area of medicine, as women were viewed as nervous, hysterical beings, and were discouraged from doing anything to further “upset” them. The prevailing wisdom of the day was that rest would cure hysteria, when in reality the constant boredom and lack of purpose likely worsened depression .

Perkins Gilman used her own experience in her first marriage and postpartum depression as inspiration for The Yellow Wallpaper, and illustrates how a woman’s lack of autonomy is detrimental to her mental health.

Upon its publication, Perkins Gilman sent a copy of "The Yellow Wallpaper" to the doctor who prescribed her the rest cure for her postpartum depression.


"The Yellow Wallpaper" Characters

Though there are only a few characters in the story, they each have an important role. While the story is about the narrator’s mental deterioration, the relationships in her life are essential for understanding why and how she got to this point.

The Narrator

The narrator of the story is a young, upper-middle-class woman. She is imaginative and a natural writer, though she is discouraged from exploring this part of herself. She is a new mother and is thought to have “hysterical tendencies” or suffer from nervousness. Her name may be Jane but it is unclear.

John is the narrator’s husband and her physician. He restricts her activity as a part of her treatment. John is extremely practical, and belittles the narrator's imagination and feelings . He seems to care about her well-being, but believes he knows what is best for her and doesn't allow her input.

Jennie is John’s sister, who works as a housekeeper for the couple. Jennie seems concerned for the narrator, as indicated by her offer to sleep in the yellow wallpapered room with her. Jennie seems content with her domestic role .

Main Themes of "The Yellow Wallpaper"

From what we know about the author of this story and from interpreting the text, there are a few themes that are clear from a "Yellow Wallpaper" analysis. "The Yellow Wallpaper" was a serious piece of literature that addressed themes pertinent to women.

Women's Role in Marriage

Women were expected to be subordinate to their husbands and completely obedient, as well as take on strictly domestic roles inside the home . Upper middle class women, like the narrator, may go for long periods of time without even leaving the home. The story reveals that this arrangement had the effect of committing women to a state of naïveté, dependence, and ignorance.

John assumes he has the right to determine what’s best for his wife, and this authority is never questioned. He belittles her concerns, both concrete and the ones that arise as a result of her depression , and is said so brush her off and “laugh at her” when she speaks through, “this is to be expected in marriage” He doesn’t take her concerns seriously, and makes all the decisions about both of their lives.

As such, she has no say in anything in her life, including her own health, and finds herself unable to even protest.

Perkins Gilman, like many others, clearly disagreed with this state of things, and aimed to show the detrimental effects that came to women as a result of their lack of autonomy.

Identity and Self-Expression

Throughout the story, the narrator is discouraged from doing the things she wants to do and the things that come naturally to her, like writing. On more than one occasion, she hurries to put her journal away because John is approaching .

She also forces herself to act as though she’s happy and satisfied, to give the illusion that she is recovering, which is worse. She wants to be a good wife, according to the way the role is laid out for her, but struggles to conform especially with so little to actually do.

The narrator is forced into silence and submission through the rest cure, and desperately needs an intellectual and emotional outlet . However, she is not granted one and it is clear that this arrangement takes a toll.

The Rest Cure

The rest cure was commonly prescribed during this period of history for women who were “nervous.” Perkins Gilman has strong opinions about the merits of the rest cure , having been prescribed it herself. John’s insistence on the narrator getting “air” constantly, and his insistence that she do nothing that requires mental or physical stimulation is clearly detrimental.

The narrator is also discouraged from doing activities, whether they are domestic- like cleaning or caring for her baby- in addition to things like reading, writing, and exploring the grounds of the house. She is stifled and confined both physically and mentally, which only adds to her condition .

Perkins Gilman damns the rest cure in this story, by showing the detrimental effects on women, and posing that women need mental and physical stimulation to be healthy, and need to be free to make their own decisions over health and their lives.


The Yellow Wallpaper Analysis: Symbols and Symbolism

Symbols are a way for the author to give the story meaning, and provide clues as to the themes and characters. There are two major symbols in "The Yellow Wallpaper."

The Yellow Wallpaper

This is of course the most important symbol in the story. The narrator is immediately fascinated and disgusted by the yellow wallpaper, and her understanding and interpretation fluctuates and intensifies throughout the story.

The narrator, because she doesn’t have anything else to think about or other mental stimulation, turns to the yellow wallpaper as something to analyze and interpret. The pattern eventually comes into focus as bars, and then she sees a woman inside the pattern . This represents feeling trapped.

At the end of the story, the narrator believes that the woman has come out of the wallpaper. This indicates that the narrator has finally merged fully into her psychosis , and become one with the house and domesticated discontent.

Though Jennie doesn’t have a major role in the story, she does present a foil to the narrator. Jennie is John’s sister and their housekeeper, and she is content, or so the narrator believes, to live a domestic life. Though she does often express her appreciation for Jennie’s presence in her home, she is clearly made to feel guilty by Jennie’s ability to run the household unencumbered .

Irony in The Yellow Wallpaper

"The Yellow Wallpaper" makes good use of dramatic and situational irony. Dramatic literary device in which the reader knows or understands things that the characters do not. Situational irony is when the character’s actions are meant to do one thing, but actually do another. Here are a few examples.

For example, when the narrator first enters the room with the yellow wallpaper, she believes it to be a nursery . However, the reader can clearly see that the room could have just as easily been used to contain a mentally unstable person.

The best example of situational irony is the way that John continues to prescribe the rest-cure, which worsens the narrator's state significantly. He encourages her to lie down after meals and sleep more, which causes her to be awake and alert at night, when she has time to sit and evaluate the wallpaper.

The Yellow Wallpaper Summary

"The Yellow Wallpaper" is one of the defining works of feminist literature. Writing about a woman’s health, mental or physical, was considered a radical act at the time that Perkins Gilman wrote this short story. Writing at all about the lives of women was considered at best, frivolous, and at worst dangerous. When you take a look at The Yellow Wallpaper analysis, the story is an important look into the role of women in marriage and society, and it will likely be a mainstay in the feminist literary canon.

What's Next?

Looking for more expert guides on literary classics? Read our guides on The Cask of Amontillado and The Great Gatsby .

Need important and interesting quotes? Check out these 18 To Kill a Mockingbird Quotes and 9 Great Mark Twain Quotes .

For help analyzing literature and writing essays , read our expert guide on imagery , literary elements , and writing an argumentative essay .

Carrie holds a Bachelors in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College, and is currently pursuing an MFA. She worked in book publishing for several years, and believes that books can open up new worlds. She loves reading, the outdoors, and learning about new things.

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Interesting Literature

A Summary and Analysis of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’

By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)

‘The Yellow Wallpaper’, an 1892 short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, has the structure and style of a diary. This is in keeping with what the female narrator tells us: that she can only write down her experiences when her husband John is not around, since he has forbidden her to write until she is well again, believing it will overexcite her.

Through a series of short instalments, we learn more about the narrator’s situation, and her treatment at the hands of her doctor husband and her sister-in-law.

To summarise the story, then: the narrator and her husband John, a doctor, have come to stay at a large country house. As the story develops, we realise that the woman’s husband has brought her to the house in order to try to cure her of her mental illness (he has told her that repairs are being carried out on their home, which is why they have had to relocate to a mansion).

His solution, or treatment, is effectively to lock her away from everyone – including her own family, except for him – and to forbid her anything that might excite her, such as writing. (She writes her account of what happens to her, and the effect it has on her, in secret, hiding her pen and paper when her husband or his sister come into the room.)

John’s suggested treatment for his wife also extends to relieving her of maternal duties: their baby is taken out of her hands and looked after by John’s sister, Jennie. Jennie also does all of the cooking and housework.

It becomes clear, as the story develops, that depriving the female narrator of anything to occupy her mind is making her mental illness worse, not better.

The narrator confides that she cannot even cry in her husband’s company, or when anyone else is present, because that will be interpreted as a sign that her condition is worsening – and her husband has promised (threatened?) to send her to another doctor, Weir Mitchell, if her condition doesn’t show signs of improving. And according to a female friend who has been treated by him, Weir Mitchell is like her husband and brother ‘only more so’ (i.e. stricter).

The narrator then outlines in detail how she sometimes sits for hours on end in her room, tracing the patterns in the yellow wallpaper. She then tells us she thinks she can see a woman ‘stooping down and creeping about behind that pattern.’ At this point, she changes her mind, and goes from being fond of the pattern in the yellow wallpaper to wishing she could go away from the place.

She tells John that she isn’t getting any better in this house and that she would like to leave, but he tells her she is looking healthier and that they cannot return home for another three weeks, until their lease is up and the ‘repairs’ at home have been completed.

Despondent, the narrator tells us how she is becoming more obsessed by the yellow wallpaper, especially at night when she is unable to sleep and so lies awake watching the pattern in the wallpaper, which she says resembles a fungus.

She starts to fear her husband. She becomes paranoid that her husband and sister-in-law, Jennie, are trying to decipher the pattern in the yellow wallpaper, and she becomes determined to beat them to it. (Jennie was actually checking the wallpaper because the thought it was staining their clothes; this is the reason she gives to the narrator when asked about it, anyway. However, the more likely reason is that she and John have noticed the narrator’s obsession with looking at the wallpaper, and are becoming concerned.)

Next, the narrator tells us she has noticed the strange smell of the wallpaper, and tells us she seriously considered burning down the house to try to solve the mystery of what she smell was. She concludes that it is simply ‘a yellow smell!’ We now realise that the narrator is losing her mind rather badly.

She becomes convinced that the ‘woman behind’ the yellow wallpaper is shaking it, thus moving the front pattern of the paper. She says she has seen this woman creeping about the grounds of the house during the day; she returns to behind the wallpaper at night.

The narrator then tells us that she believes John and Jennie have become ‘affected’ by the wallpaper – that they are losing their minds from being exposed to it. So the narrator begins stripping the yellow wallpaper from the walls, much to the consternation of Jennie. John has all of his wife’s things moved out of the room, ready for them to leave the house. While John is out, the narrator locks herself inside the now bare room and throws the key out the window, so she cannot be disturbed.

She has become convinced that there are many creeping women roaming the grounds of the house, all of them originating from behind the yellow wallpaper, and that she is one of them. The story ends with her husband banging on the door to be let in, fetching the key when she tells him it’s down by the front door mat, and bursting into the room – whereupon he faints, at the sight of his wife creeping around the room.

That concludes a summary of the ‘plot’ of ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’. But what does it all mean?

‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ begins by dangling the idea that what we are about to read is a haunted house story, a Gothic tale, a piece of horror. Why else, wonders the story’s female narrator, would the house be available so cheaply unless it was haunted? And why had it remained unoccupied for so long? This is how many haunted house tales begin.

And this will turn out to be true, in many ways – the story is often included in anthologies of horror fiction, and there is a ‘haunting’ of a kind going on in the story – but as ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ develops we realise we’re reading something far more unsettling than a run-of-the-mill haunted house story, because the real ghosts and demons are either inside the narrator’s troubled mind or else her own husband and her sister-in-law.

Of course, these two things are linked. Because one of the ‘morals’ of ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ – if ‘moral’ is not too strong a word to use of such a story – is that the husband’s treatment of his wife’s mental illness only succeeds in making her worse , rather than better, until her condition reaches the point where she is completely mad, suffering from hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia. So ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ is a haunted house story … but the only ghosts are inside the narrator’s head.

‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ borrows familiar tropes from a Gothic horror story – it ends with the husband taking an axe to the bedroom door where his cowering wife is imprisoned – but the twist is that, by the end of the story, she has imprisoned herself in her deluded belief that she is protecting her husband from the ‘creeping women’ from behind the wallpaper, and he is prepared to beat down the door with an axe out of genuine concern for his sick wife, rather than to butcher her, in the style of Bluebeard or Jack Torrance.

Narrative Style

As we mentioned at the beginning of this analysis, ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ has the structure and style of a diary. This is in keeping with what the female narrator tells us: that she can only write down her experiences when her husband John is not around. But it also has the effect of shifting the narrative tense: from the usual past tense to the more unusual present tense.

Only one year separates ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ from George Egerton’s first volume of short stories , which made similarly pioneering use of present-tense narration in order to depict female consciousness.

The literary critic Ruth Robbins has made the argument that the past tense (or ‘perfect tense’) is unsuited to some modes of fiction because it offers the ‘perspective that leads to judgment’: because events have already occurred, we feel in a position to judge the characters involved.

Present-tense narration deters us from doing this so readily, for two reasons. First, we are thrown in amongst the events, experiencing them as they happen almost, so we feel complicit in them. Second, because things are still unfolding seemingly before our very eyes, we feel that to attempt to pass judgment on what’s happening would be too rash and premature: we don’t know for sure how things are going to play out yet.

Given that Gilman is writing about a mentally unstable woman being mistreated by her male husband (and therefore, given his profession, by the medical world too), her decision to plunge us headlong into the events of the story encourages us to listen to what the narrator is telling us before we attempt to pronounce on what’s going on.

The fact that ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ is narrated in the first person, from the woman’s own perspective and in her own voice, is also a factor: the only access we have to her treatment (or mistreatment) and to her husband’s behaviour and personality is through her: what she tells us and how she tells it to us.

But there is another narrative advantage to this present-tense diary structure: we as readers are forced to appraise everything we are told by the narrator, and scrutinise it carefully, deciding whether we are being told the whole story or whether the narrator, in her nervous and unstable state, may not be seeing things as they really are.

A good example of this is when, having told us at length how she follows the patterns on the yellow wallpaper on the walls of her room, sometimes for hours on end, the narrator then tells us she is glad her baby doesn’t have to live in the same room, because someone as ‘impressionable’ as her child wouldn’t do well in such a room.

The dramatic irony which the narrator cannot see but which we, tragically, can, is that she is every bit as impressionable as a small child, and the yellow wallpaper – and, more broadly, her effective incarceration – is clearly having a deleterious effect on her mental health. (The story isn’t perfect: Gilman telegraphs the irony a little too strongly when, in the next breath, she has her narrator tell us, with misplaced confidence, ‘I can stand it so much easier than a baby, you see.’)

In the last analysis, ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ is so unsettling because it plays with established Gothic horror conventions and then subverts them in order to expose the misguided medical practices used in an attempt to ‘treat’ or ‘cure’ women who are suffering from mental or nervous disorders. It has become a popular feminist text about the male mistreatment of women partly because the ‘villain’, the narrator’s husband John, is acting out of a genuine (if hubristic) belief that he knows what’s best for her.

The whole field of nineteenth-century patriarchal society and the way it treats women thus comes under scrutiny, in a story that is all the more powerful for refusing to preach, even while it lets one such mistreated woman speak for herself.

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10 thoughts on “A Summary and Analysis of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’”

I absolutely loved this story. read it a few times in a row when I first crossed paths with it a few years ago –

“The Yellow Wallpaper” remains one of the most disturbing books I’ve ever read. Excellent analysis!

Fantastic book.

I cringe every time this story appears on a reading list or in a curriculum textbook. It’s almost hysterical in tone and quite disturbing in how overstated the “abuse” of the wife is supposed to be. It’s right up there with “The Awakening” as feminist literature that hinders, instead of promoting, the dilemma of 19th century women.

How is it overstated?

To witness the woman’s unraveling and how ignored she is, to me, a profound statement how people with emotional distress are not treated with respect.

  • Pingback: ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’: A Summary of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Story – Interesting Literature

Terrific analysis. Gothic fiction is always open to many forms of reading and particularly for feminist reading – as openly presented by Angela Carter’ neo-gothic stories (which I would love to read your analyses of one day Oliver!). ‘the Yellow Wallpaper’ I think is the go-to story for most feminist commentators on Gothic fiction – and rightly so. I can’t help notice the connections between this story and the (mis)treatments of Sigmund Freud. Soooo much in this story to think about that I feel like a kiddie in sweet shop!

Thank you as always, Ken, for the thoughtful comment – and I completely agree about the links with Freud. The 1890s really was a pioneering age for psychiatric treatment/analysis, though we cringe at some of the ideas that were seriously considered (and put into practice). Oddly enough I’ve just been rearranging the pile of books on the floor of my study here at IL Towers, and The Bloody Chamber is near the top of my list of books to cover in due course!

I will wait with abated breath for your thoughts! I love Angela Carter :)

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Essays on The Yellow Wallpaper

If you're looking for a fascinating topic for your next essay, look no further than "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman! 📚 This classic piece of literature offers a treasure trove of themes and insights that will keep your readers hooked. Exploring the eerie, mysterious world of the story, its historical context, and the author's intentions can lead to an exceptional essay that will impress your teachers and peers alike. Let's dive into the madness together! 🌼

The Yellow Wallpaper Essay Topics for "The Yellow Wallpaper" 📝

Choosing the perfect topic for your essay is essential to ensure you have an engaging and well-researched piece. Here are some tips to help you pick the right one:

The Yellow Wallpaper Argumentative Essay 🤨

An argumentative essay on "The Yellow Wallpaper" requires you to take a stance on a particular issue within the story. Some great topics include:

  • 1. The portrayal of women's mental health in the 19th century
  • 2. The role of gender in the story's confinement theme
  • 3. Was John, the husband, truly a villain?

The Yellow Wallpaper Cause and Effect Essay 🤯

Exploring cause and effect relationships can be captivating. Consider these topics:

  • 1. The consequences of isolation on the protagonist's mental state
  • 2. How societal norms led to the narrator's decline
  • 3. The impact of the wallpaper on the narrator's descent into madness

The Yellow Wallpaper Opinion Essay 😌

Express your personal opinions and interpretations with these essay topics:

  • 1. Your take on the narrator's relationship with the wallpaper
  • 2. Analyze the symbolism of the room's colors according to your perspective
  • 3. Why the story remains relevant in today's society

The Yellow Wallpaper Informative Essay 🧐

Inform and educate your readers with these informative essay topics:

  • 1. The historical context of women's mental health treatment in the 19th century
  • 2. The life and influences of Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  • 3. Psychological analysis of the protagonist's descent into madness

The Yellow Wallpaper Essay Example 📄

The yellow wallpaper thesis statement examples 📜.

Here are five examples of strong thesis statements for your essay:

  • 1. "In 'The Yellow Wallpaper,' Charlotte Perkins Gilman portrays the damaging effects of the patriarchy on women's mental health, highlighting the need for autonomy and self-expression."
  • 2. "The symbolism of the yellow wallpaper reflects the protagonist's struggle for freedom and individuality in a repressive society."
  • 3. "John's well-intentioned but oppressive actions towards his wife ultimately drive her to madness in 'The Yellow Wallpaper.'

The Yellow Wallpaper Essay Introduction Examples 🚀

Here are three captivating introduction paragraphs to get your essay off to a strong start:

  • 1. "In the eerie world of 'The Yellow Wallpaper,' Charlotte Perkins Gilman delves into the dark corners of a woman's mind trapped by the societal norms of the 19th century."
  • 2. "Step into the room with peeling yellow wallpaper and follow the chilling descent into madness as we analyze Charlotte Perkins Gilman's masterpiece."
  • 3. "The haunting atmosphere of 'The Yellow Wallpaper' draws readers into a world of confinement, madness, and feminist defiance."

The Yellow Wallpaper Essay Conclusion Examples 🌟

Conclude your essay with impact using these examples:

  • 1. "In conclusion, 'The Yellow Wallpaper' serves as a powerful critique of a society that stifled women's voices and autonomy, urging us to recognize the importance of mental health and individuality."
  • 2. "As the last layer of wallpaper is torn away, we unveil the disturbing truth of societal oppression. 'The Yellow Wallpaper' reminds us that silence can lead to madness, and it is time to break free."
  • 3. "In the end, the yellow wallpaper's patterns mirror the complexities of the human mind, offering a chilling reflection of the societal constraints that once confined women. Gilman's work will continue to resonate as a symbol of rebellion and empowerment."

Exploring The Subtext of Gender in 'The Yellow Wallpaper'

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Imagery in The Yellow Wallpaper

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The Importance of The Point of View in The Yellow Wallpaper

The opression of women in a jury of her peer and the yellow wallpaper, female insanity in the yellow wallpaper, the violence of achieving of the victorian ideal of femininity in the yellow wallpaper, get a personalized essay in under 3 hours.

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Literary Analysis of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gillman

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1892, Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Short story; Psychological fiction, Gothic literature

The Woman in the Wallpaper, John, Mary, Narrator, Jennie

Based on the theme of madness and being powerless. According to an article in Forerunner magazine’s publication in 1913, The Yellow Wallpaper has been loosely based on the author's own mental illness that she has been going through because of postpartum depression.

Feminism, madness, loneliness, isolation, mental illness , fear, postpartum depression.

It has been influenced by early feminism and gender relations in late 19th-century America. It also deals with the mental breakdown and the postpartum depression, loneliness, and isolation. The Yellow Wallpaper became a symbol of a mental disease and the covering of female loneliness and lack of help after becoming a mother.

It tells a story about a woman who is obsessed with the yellow wallpaper in her room, which is a symbol of falling into psychosis as a result of depression. As the protagonist is placed on a special "cure" at the rented summer estate with her family, she becomes isolated and slowly becomes insane. The Yellow Wallpaper plot shows the structure of domestic life through the lens of madness and the early feminism outlook.

The book has been written by Gilman to persuade her physician that his ways have been wrong. The "Yellow Wallpaper" has been a helping grace for many other women to escape insanity. Some publishers believed that this story was too depressing and rejected to publish it. It is one of the earliest feminism-related stories ever published. Hysteria was among the most frequent diagnoses that was common for women in the 19th century. Gilman has never been paid for her initial publication of the story. Gilman has testified before Congress in favor of woman suffrage at the 1896 Hearing of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

“But I MUST say what I feel and think in some way — it is such a relief! But the effort is getting to be greater than the relief.” “I never saw a worse paper in my life. One of those sprawling flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin.” “You think you have mastered it, but just as you get well underway in following, it turns a back-somersault and there you are. It slaps you in the face, knocks you down, and tramples upon you. It is like a bad dream.” “John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage.” “I am glad my case is not serious! But these nervous troubles are dreadfully depressing. John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no reason to suffer, and that satisfies him.”

The culmination of this short story is so-called "rest-cure" of the Victorian times that has been meant to cure hysteria, loneliness, sadness, or any nervous condition in women living in those times.

It is an important work of art that brings up the issue of a mental breakdown that has been ignored in the 19th century. It also speaks of gender relations and the postpartum depression treatment where the men do not see any problem and choose to ignore it. As the story with the relative feminism and the use of symbols, it is a poignant story that is both disturbing and sincere to explain that the problem of depression and a mental breakdown does exist. As the essay topic, it is used to explain the gender relations and the domestic life of women.

1. Gilman, C. P. (2011). Why I Wrote the Yellow Wallpaper?. Advances in psychiatric treatment, 17(4), 265-265. 2. Lanser, S. S. (1989). Feminist criticism," The Yellow Wallpaper," and the politics of color in America. Feminist Studies, 15(3), 415-441. ( 3. Shumaker, C. (1985). Too terribly good to be printed": Charlotte Gilman's" The Yellow Wallpaper. American Literature, 57(4), 588-599. ( 4. Davison, C. M. (2004). Haunted House/Haunted Heroine: Female Gothic Closets in “The Yellow Wallpaper”. Women's Studies, 33(1), 47-75. ( 5. Oakley, A. (1997). Beyond the yellow wallpaper. Reproductive Health Matters, 5(10), 29-39. 6. Hume, B. A. (1991). Gilman's" interminable grotesque": The Narrator of" The Yellow Wallpaper". Studies in Short Fiction, 28(4), 477. ( 7. Hume, B. A. (2002). Managing Madness in Gilman's" The Yellow Wall-Paper". Studies in American Fiction, 30(1), 3-20. ( 8. Johnson, G. (1989). Gilman's Gothic Allegory: Rage and Redemption in The Yellow Wallpaper. Studies in Short Fiction, 26(4), 521. ( 9. Bak, J. S. (1994). Escaping the jaundiced eye: Foucauldian Panopticism in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's" The Yellow Wallpaper.". Studies in Short Fiction, 31(1), 39-47. (

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symbols in the yellow wallpaper essay

symbols in the yellow wallpaper essay

The Yellow Wallpaper

Charlotte perkins gilman, ask litcharts ai: the answer to your questions.

Mental Illness and its Treatment Theme Icon

Mental Illness and its Treatment

Reading the series of diary entries that make up the story, the reader is in a privileged position to witness the narrator’s evolving and accelerating descent into madness, foreshadowed by her mounting paranoia and obsession with the mysterious figure behind the pattern of the yellow wallpaper.

As the portrayal of a woman’s gradual mental breakdown, The Yellow Wallpaper offers the reader a window into the perception and treatment of mental illness in the late nineteenth…

Mental Illness and its Treatment Theme Icon

Gender Roles and Domestic Life

Alongside its exploration of mental illness, The Yellow Wallpaper offers a critique of traditional gender roles as they were defined during the late nineteenth century, the time in which the story is set and was written. Charlotte Perkins Gilman was a prominent feminist, who rejected the trappings of traditional domestic life and published extensively about the role of women in society, and saw the gender roles of the time as horribly stifling.

The story’s family…

Gender Roles and Domestic Life Theme Icon

Outward Appearance vs. Inner Life

Another major theme in the story lies in the contradiction between outward appearance and inner life.

The story’s form, in a series of diary entries, gives the reader a glimpse into its writer’s inner life. This, in turn, allows us to watch as the narrator’s husband misinterprets her condition, and as she begins to consciously deceive both him and Jennie . Our privileged view into the narrator’s mind leads to an appreciation of the sarcasm …

Outward Appearance vs. Inner Life Theme Icon

Self-Expression, Miscommunication, and Misunderstanding

Alongside questions of gender and mental illness in “The Yellow Wallpaper” is the simple story of a woman who is unable fully to express herself, or to find someone who will listen.

The narrator’s sense that the act of writing, which she has been forbidden to do, is exactly what she needs to feel better suggests this stifled self-expression. Since she is unable to communicate with her husband, this diary becomes a secret outlet for…

Self-Expression, Miscommunication, and Misunderstanding Theme Icon

The Yellow Wallpaper - Essay Samples And Topic Ideas For Free

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a seminal piece of feminist literature, explores themes of mental illness, patriarchal oppression, and female autonomy. Essays could delve into the narrative structure, the symbolism of the wallpaper, and the psychological descent of the protagonist. They might also discuss the historical context of women’s mental health during the late 19th century, and how Gilman’s personal experiences influenced her work. Discussions could extend to the story’s influence on feminist literary criticism, its relevance in contemporary discussions on mental health and gender, and how “The Yellow Wallpaper” resonates with or challenges modern readers in understanding the historical and ongoing struggles for women’s autonomy and well-being. We’ve gathered an extensive assortment of free essay samples on the topic of The Yellow Wallpaper you can find at PapersOwl Website. You can use our samples for inspiration to write your own essay, research paper, or just to explore a new topic for yourself.

Feminism in the Yellow Wallpaper and the Story of an Hour

Throughout “The Yellow Wallpaper”, written by Charlotte Perkins Gillman, the protagonist is described as a woman of the 1800’s facing oppression by male dominance. In comparison, the protagonist from Kate Chopin’s, “The Story of an Hour”, experiences the same oppression. Both protagonists are dealing with some type of loss over the course of their short story, but in contrast the effectiveness of their loss differs on opposite ends of the spectrum. Ultimately both protagonists are portrayed as women who experience […]

Symbolism in the Yellow Wallpaper

In Charlotte Gilman's short story "The Yellow Wallpaper," the storyteller is found at the highest point of an old home in a room decorated in a yellow wallpaper. The lady depicted had recently given birth to a child but is presently experiencing what she describes as a "nervous condition.As the lady stays in the room, she becomes fixated on the yellow wallpaper of her room. Inside the strict components of the story are images that demonstrate the hidden message of […]

Irony and Symbols: the Way of Gilman and Poe

If Edgar Allan Poe had lived to see the days that Charlotte Perkins Gilman was alive and writing, he would have commended her for her excellent taste in literary devices. It may be true that the father of dark romanticism and this social reformist have little in common, between their life stories and the messages they aimed to portray in their works. However, Gilman and Poe both utilized a combination of literary devices, specifically symbolism and irony, to solidify the […]

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The Yellow Wallpaper Character Analysis

“The Yellow Wallpaper” is a feminist short story by Charlotte Perkins- Gilman. The meaning of the story is beyond belief as it see the sights into the basic issues of a woman's place in society, and women's rights in the 19th century. Charlotte Perkins-Gilman's theme behind the short story was an awareness approach and a feminist approach. The main character in the story struggles against the masculine ways of thinking and society norms or standards. She also struggles with mental […]

The Yellow Wallpaper Feminism

Any literary work intends to evoke some profound feelings and impressions that readers link to their personal experience and reality around. Charlotte Perkins Gilman presents a feminist gothic story “The Yellow Wallpaper” that discloses the issues of female suffering and lack of freedom in the patriarchal society that limits women’s choices and desires. The protagonist faces discrimination and neglect that result in her physical and psychological breakdown, broken illusions about self-identity, and madness as a response to inside and outside […]

Psychological and Physical Well-being of Women in the XIX Century

The Yellow Wallpaper is a short story by American author Charlotte Perkins Gilman, first published in January 1892 at the New England press. It is considered as an important first study of American feminist writing, because of its example of the attitudes towards psychological and physical well-being of women in the nineteenth century. Narrated in the first person, this story is a collection of diary entries written by a woman whose physician partner (John) has rented the ancient house for […]

Jane’s Depression in the Yellow Wallpaper

The Yellow Wallpaper is written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. This story is about a young woman by the name of Jane who is a wife, trapped in a room. Jane suffers from depression following the birth of her child. Her husband, John, diagnoses her behavior as melancholia. He prescribes her rest and leases a house in the country for her rehabilitation. John is a respected physician, so Jane initially needs his advice. He does not let her write, which is […]

The Yellow Wallpaper: the Symbolism between the Mental Conditions and the Wallpaper

       In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s, “The Yellow Wallpaper”, there is a connection between the narrator's mental structure and the wallpaper itself. As the woman works to gain back her sanity, she rips the paper down to free herself from that confinement, as she watches her mental state deteriorate day by day. Niko Kazantzakis, a Greek novelist, states “A person needs a little madness or else they never dare cut the rope and be free”. On a larger scale, […]

“Dragos Tenter” Fiction Paper

The Oscars, the Emmys and the Tonys are awards given to the best of the arts. Literature is an inspiration for TV programs and Broadway plays. There are four nominees for the Best American short story of all time. The nominees are “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway, “Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin and “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The winner is “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman […]

Feminist Criticism in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”

In the 1890 's women were not allowed to have a voice for themselves, their husbands were the ones that were allowed to make all the decisions in the house. Charlotte Perkins-Gilman had a feminist approach to this story, due to the protagonists' struggles against male thinking and society norms. The story tells of the close-mindedness of how postpartum depression was treated and dealt with by society. It tells of a woman who is the narrator, who is going through […]

The Yellow Wallpaper Victorian Era Gender Roles

The Civil War had just recently come to a close bringing about many changes in American culture. The archaic class system had been shaken, leaving the wealthy and middle class void of social standards and in search of a new identity. In an act of desperation, Americans adopted European culture, a culture tyrannized by men, as their own. In the 1890s short story, The Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte Perkins Gilman tells the story of a woman who is diagnosed with hysteria […]

About Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s the Yellow Wall-Paper

Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wall-Paper is a short story that is told in entries of a secret diary. The story starts when Jane, the narrator and her husband, John, move into an estate that they will be spending three months in. When they first move in, the narrator asks for the room on the very first floor with roses that surround the window. Her husband, however, had other ideas and bluntly refuses, saying the room is extremely small as […]

The Yellow Wallpaper Time Setting Analysis

The Yellow Wallpaper was allegory gothic literature by charlotte Gerkins Gilman written in 19th century a period of social change and the beginning of industrial revolution a time where man dominated everything including, social, economic and domestic issues, although it was a time of abolition of slavery, social injustice against women was prevalence where woman symbolises assets to acquire just like furniture or an object of bearing children for the family. The woman at that time lack locus standing and […]

The Examination of Literary Devices in “The Yellow Wallpaper”

During the nineteenth century, women were seen as property rather than human beings with rights. Because of this ordeal, women became active feminists and social reformists in order to change their social rank in society, known as the Women’s Suffrage Movement. Among these women was Charlotte Perkins Gilman, who wrote many works pertaining to the discrimination and minority of women during these times to change how people viewed women in society. This progressive movement had a heavy impact on Gilman’s […]

About Postpartum Depression in the Yellow Wallpaper

Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper does not, in my opinion, reflect contemporary concerns of women. Gilman's short story focuses on the idea that men control the lives of women in essentially every aspect. The narrator's husband tells her not to do anything to stimulate her brain. He asks her not to write, think about her condition, or to talk to anyone in a stimulating fashion. Her whole life at this point is decided by her husband and brother, who […]

The Yellow Wallpaper Theme

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Gilman is a short story of a young woman’s journal entries, who is seemingly mentally unstable. She shows symptoms of anxiety, depression, and “hysteria”. The narrator’s name is not definitive but is alluded to being Jane and for the sake of clarity in this essay, she will be mentioned as such. John, her husband, is a physician and believes she just needs to rest to be cured; he rents a mansion for 3 months in […]

Position of Women

"In "Their Eyes Were Watching God", women are confined as objects of desire to men. In the novel, Janie’s first husband, Logan, believes that having a wife is to make his life easier so he would not be constantly working. Logan insists that Janie helps him with his stuff when he says, “You ain’t got no particular place. It’s wherever Ah need yuh. Git uh move on yuh, and dat quick” (Hurston 30). It is obvious that Janie is seen […]

Symbolizing the Control of Women in the Yellow Wallpaper

The Yellow Wallpaper is a short story in which Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the author, symbolizes the control of women and their subjugation in society around that era. The narrator, Perkin's main character in the story, suffers from postpartum depression and was prescribed by her husband, John, a physician, bed rest. Later, the narrator is placed in a room with a yellow wallpaper. The narrator believes that behind the wallpaper she can visualize a woman. Her obsession grows, finds clues towards […]

The Narrator of the Yellow Wallpaper

In the beginning of the story, the narrator explained the house as being a beautiful, silent, far away from the village, gated, and a haunted house. She already described the home as something devil-like possessed and wondered why else the house went on sale for so cheap and why it was abandoned for so long. Has strict rules by her husband to stay in the house all day with some exercise outside in the gated garden. While being indoors all […]

Analysis of the Yellow Wallpaper

The yellow wallpaper ends with the narrator and her husband are subsequently leaving soon, and employees pack up the furniture. John desires to remain round the nearby area, and the narrator is aware this is her last probability to free the lady in the wallpaper. Jennie wishes to set down with the narrator; in any case, the narrator uncovers to her that she will relaxation better besides any different individual. Right when the moon turns out, the woman in the […]

The Story the Yellow Wallpaper

The story starts with the narrator suffering from postpartum depression after childbirth. On the old days, this was known as woman hysterics. Due to people who were supposed to rent the house were wealthy people who lost their money, the house was rented for a low price. The narrator expresses the hate she has for the room she is locked in because of the ugly wallpaper, so ugly it drives her crazy. John is the husband of the narrator, who […]

“One Hour Story” by Kate Chopin and “Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Stetson

In the late 1800’s, the roles of women placed them in conditions which much less power and opportunity than is available in the modern era. The Story of An Hour, by Kate Chopin and The Yellow Wall-Paper, by Charlotte Perkins Stetson are both short stories written by women in the late 1800’s and the tone displayed by the authors is that of oppression. Both stories bear similar themes. The following paper will compare and contrast the message’s in both stories […]

The Role of the Yellow Wallpaper

Charlotte Perkins Gilman's short story "The Yellow Wallpaper" showcases the female narrator's seclusion from society while attempting to come to terms with her rather horrifying dementia. It takes the form of a horrific tale, detailing the hidden internal struggles of domestic abuse. What's more, it is a flat-out rejection of the role Gilman believes women are forcibly pushed into isolation at the hands of patriarchal abuse. Her psychological pain is diagnosed as a sort of nervous disorder by none other […]

Gender Oppression in “The Yellow Wallpaper”

In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” the narrator is suffering from post-partum depression; however, her husband who happens to be a physician, ignores her and just assumes she needs rest. In doing so, the narrator’s illness progressed and eventually lead to her insanity. During the 1800’s men were superior to women and were expected to be a dutiful housewife and obey their husband. However, in the narrator’s case obeying her husband was detrimental to her sanity. Gender […]

Comparative Study on the Yellow Wallpaper and Young Goodman Brown

The book "Young Goodman Brown" by Nathaniel Hawthorne is about a man (Goodman Brown) who leaves home to attend an unholy meeting at the heart of a forest, only to find that most of his pious friends are actually ardent devil worshippers. He remains wary of them when he goes back home till his dying moments. The author is an American novelist and short story writer. Most of his literary works revolve in and around England, most of which features […]

The Feminist Views on the Yellow Wallpaper

In the short story, The Yellow Wallpaper, written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman was a story about feminist literature and what it was like for women in the nineteenth century. Women in that century faced several obstacles that nobody would ever understand. This woman was placed in a room and that was all she knew was being in that room. She was placed in there by her husband which also was her physician who thinks she is suffering from a temporary […]

A Comparative Analysis of Female Characters in Literature and Television

While the Story of an Hour and the Yellow Wallpaper are two distinctly different stories written by two separate authors, they share many of the same themes and elements. Both works depict a woman facing oppression through marriage and society, longing for freedom and autonomy. This theme is still very relevant and is at the center of Sansa Starks character arc in Game of Thrones. All three women face an oppressive society and desire freedom and independence. In all three […]

Critical Evaluation the Yellow Wallpaper

In the story of The Yellow Wallpaper, the narrator, Jane, is diagnosed with nervous depression. This condition is brought up multiple times throughout the story in many parts but in different forms. This is what ultimately leads her to go insane staring at the yellow wallpaper. The narrator puts enormous emphasis on this condition in subtle ways. Her choice of wording in the above text has more than one meaning, it is an extremely important choice of words for the […]

Control and Feminism in the Yellow Wallpaper

Acquiring Basic Rights for women has been a nonyielding fight since the beginning of time, and it was through such strife that the movement known as feminism was born. Feminism can be defined in the dictionary as “ Advocacy of women's rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes”, this type of advocacy occurs in many different ways but some of the earliest and most influential came from literature. The early-to-mid-nineteenth century was a landmarking time for women […]

The Historical Context in Charlotte Gilman’s the Yellow Wallpaper: Women’s March

The views of current society, along with past generations, have shown women have been relatively domesticated, only having a purpose when it comes time to bear children and take charge of all household affairs. The men, on the other hand, have tendencies to go out in the world and provide for their families by doing the “harder” labor. For too long, this has been seen as the status quo. Women are heads of the household only and are inferior in […]

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How To Write an Essay About The Yellow Wallpaper

Introduction to charlotte perkins gilman's the yellow wallpaper.

"The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a pivotal work in feminist literature, exploring themes of mental illness, female oppression, and the struggle for self-expression. Your essay should begin with an introduction to the short story, outlining its plot which centers on a woman's descent into psychosis and her obsession with the yellow wallpaper in her room. It's important to contextualize the story within the era it was written, highlighting the 19th-century attitudes towards women's health, both physical and mental. This introduction sets the stage for an analysis of the story's key themes and Gilman's commentary on the societal norms of her time.

Analyzing Key Themes and Symbolism

The body of your essay should delve into the story's themes and symbols. One of the main themes to explore is the treatment of women's mental health in the 19th century, particularly the practice of the "rest cure" prescribed to the protagonist. Discuss how the yellow wallpaper itself becomes a symbol of the protagonist's mental state and her struggle against the patriarchal structures that confine her. The story's exploration of identity and self-expression through the protagonist's secret journal entries can also be a critical point of analysis. Support your discussion with specific examples and quotes from the text, and consider how Gilman uses narrative techniques to convey the protagonist’s gradual loss of reality and her increasing obsession with the wallpaper.

Contextual Analysis

Offer a contextual analysis of "The Yellow Wallpaper," considering it within the broader framework of feminist literature and its historical context. Explore how the story reflects Gilman's own experiences and views on women's rights and the societal expectations of women during her time. Discuss the public and critical reception of the story when it was first published and how perceptions of it have evolved over time. This analysis should demonstrate an understanding of how "The Yellow Wallpaper" goes beyond a simple tale of psychological horror to become a powerful feminist statement.

Concluding Thoughts

Conclude your essay by summarizing the key points of your analysis, emphasizing the significance of the story in both literary and historical contexts. Reflect on the enduring relevance of "The Yellow Wallpaper" in modern times, particularly in discussions surrounding mental health and gender equality. Your conclusion should not only reiterate the main themes of the story but also invite readers to consider its impact and relevance in today's society. A well-crafted conclusion will leave the reader with a deeper understanding of Gilman's work and its contribution to feminist literature.

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Circulating Now From the Historical Collections of the National Library of Medicine, NIH

Race, Pseudoscience, and “The Yellow Wallpaper”

By Erika Mills and Kenneth M. Koyle ~

In “ The Yellow Wallpaper ,” author Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860–1935) tells the unsettling tale of a young mother who suffers a mental breakdown as she endures a regimen, meant to remedy her “nervous troubles,” of bed confinement and complete abstinence from intellectual and social activity. The 1892 short story, considered part of the feminist literary canon, is a vivid refutation of the contemporary “rest cure” popularized by the prominent physician Silas Weir Mitchell for treatment of conditions that affected women who “overexerted themselves” in work beyond their traditional roles. Today, Gilman is best known for this fictional story (which is the subject of the National Library of Medicine (NLM) exhibition The Literature of Prescription ). During her lifetime, though, her sociological ideas and political views brought her the most recognition.

A book page showing an illustration of a 19th century white woman reading in a chair by a window, as well as some text

Gilman was a leading theorist in the women’s movement at the turn of the 20th century. She earned international fame for her compelling fiction and nonfiction works, as well as her lectures, through which she challenged notions of female weakness pervasive in medicine and advocated for structural societal changes to empower women. Gilman is often lauded as a trailblazer for feminism and egalitarianism; however, while she strove for the empowerment of women, she spread ideologies that promoted the marginalization of other groups. Gilman was a eugenicist, a proponent of the pseudoscientific theory, informed by racism, ableism, and a misunderstanding of genetics, that humanity can be improved through selective breeding. She expressed xenophobic, racist, and ableist views in many of her works, but significantly not in “The Yellow Wallpaper.”

For the latter half of the 20th century, Gilman’s contributions to the women’s movement overshadowed her involvement in eugenics. After her death in 1935, Gilman’s works fell into obscurity. When feminist scholars rediscovered her writings in the 1960s and 1970s, they fixated on her views on gender equality and overlooked, or were unaware of, her eugenicist beliefs. Although a handful of academics acknowledged this aspect of her career in the 1980s and 1990s, it wasn’t until the 21st century that broader recognition and attention were given to her more abhorrent views.

The cover of the magazine "The Forerunner," showing an illustration of a toddler standing on a globe, supported by a sitting woman and man

As reflected in her nonfiction works like her collection of essays, Concerning Children (1902) and her magazine, The Forerunner (1906–1916) , Gilman’s feminist theories and her eugenicist beliefs were deeply intertwined, forming a complex ideological framework. Central to this perspective was the belief that women needed more societal influence and financial independence to be the orchestrators of a eugenic agenda that put them in charge of sexual selection. Women, Gilman argued, were uniquely suited to choose the fittest breeding partners and make good decisions about reproduction. The objectives of this plan were to produce generations of children with favorable traits and preserve the “racial purity” and ascendancy of native-born white Americans. The first step in perfecting and protecting the race was the liberation of women; thus, eugenics became the basis of a seemingly science-based argument for women’s rights.

Gilman’s racist and xenophobic theorizing extended beyond the realm of women’s issues and reproduction to encompass broader societal concerns. She wrote extensively on race, ethnicity, and immigration, condemning cultural diversity and proposing measures aimed at assimilating marginalized groups. In her 1908 essay “A Suggestion on the Negro Problem,” Gilman contended that white people were inherently superior to black people, who had been brought to America involuntarily and solely for white people’s benefit. White Americans thus bore a responsibility to facilitate the “racial evolution” of black people, whom she characterizes as “backward.” She suggested that black people deemed “below a certain grade of citizenship” should be subject to compulsory labor to cultivate the diligence necessary to be productive members of society. Although she acknowledged the gains made by black people since the abolition of slavery, she insinuated that their inferiority to white people was intrinsic and unchangeable.

The title page of On the Origin of Species

At first glance, the juxtaposition of Gilman’s progressive feminism alongside her racist and xenophobic views and support for eugenics may seem perplexing. However, Gilman’s ideologies were deeply rooted in the cultural context of her time. This period was marked by pervasive racist, antisemitic, and nativist sentiment. Native born white Americans felt unease about mass immigration from Europe and Asia and the Great Migration of black southerners to northern and Midwestern cities. In the south, a violent white backlash against the advancements made by black people post-Civil War was palpable. Concurrently, significant strides were made in science and medicine alongside a proliferation of pseudoscientific ideas on race. Charles Darwin had published his groundbreaking work On the Origin of Species in 1859, demonstrating the process of natural selection and articulating his theory of evolution. Inspired by Darwin’s theories, Francis Galton coined the term “eugenics” in 1883 to refer to his own idea that the human race could be improved by selectively passing desirable traits to subsequent generations. By the early 20th century, eugenics had permeated American society, shaping legislation, political agendas, and societal norms.

A photograph of a display board from a conference, showing text and images

Gilman’s advocacy of eugenics during the early 20th century wasn’t unique within feminist circles; it was a stance shared by many of her contemporaries. This first wave of feminism was predominantly composed of white, middle-class women who, like society at large, were influenced by prevalent cultural ideologies. Like Gilman, some believed that granting women greater rights and freedoms was essential for ensuring the production and upbringing of socially desirable offspring through selective breeding and childrearing practices; and saw women as pivotal in safeguarding the future of the white race. Many feminist advocates for birth control cited the prevention of health issues and socioeconomic burdens associated with large families as arguments for the cause. But some pushed for access to contraception as a tool to manage the population growth of groups deemed undesirable by eugenicist standards. Some feminist groups even pushed for legal reforms like compulsory sterilization, anti-miscegenation laws, and anti-immigration laws. Feminism represents just one among multiple progressive movements at the turn of the 20 th century influenced by the prevailing cultural biases of the era. Labor reform and environmentalism, for example, similarly reflect this phenomenon.

A photographic portrait of a sitting white woman from the early 20th century

Today, there is growing recognition and awareness of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s eugenicist beliefs in scholarship, the literary world, and society at large. While Gilman undeniably (and maybe unintentionally) contributed to the advancement of all women, her legacy is complex, encompassing both progressive advocacy and troubling ideologies. We must acknowledge her achievements without glossing over or excusing the reprehensible aspects of her work and politics. A complete understanding of Gilman’s career and beliefs requires an examination of all facets, including the negative elements. This commitment to acknowledging the entirety of Gilman’s work is crucial, not only for historical accuracy, but also for our collective responsibility to confront uncomfortable truths from the past. By thoroughly understanding and grappling with these complexities, we can work to prevent these harmful ideologies from following us into the future.

Erika Mills is an Exhibit Specialist in the User Services and Collection Division at the National Library of Medicine.

Kenneth M. Koyle is Deputy Chief of the Engagement Branch in the User Services and Collection Division at the National Library of Medicine .

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63 The Yellow Wallpaper Essay Topics & Examples

Looking for The Yellow Wallpaper essay topics? The most famous short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in definitely worth writing about!

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  • 🖋️ Research Paper Topics

In your essay on The Yellow Wallpaper , you might want to make a character or theme analysis. The key themes of the story are freedom of expression, gender roles and feminism, and mental illness. Another idea is to write an argumentative essay on the story’s historical context.

Find here all you might need to write a paper on Gilman’s short story. The Yellow Wallpaper essay prompts, titles, writing tips, and Yellow Wallpaper essay examples.

🟡 The Yellow Wallpaper Essay Questions

  • Is the Narrator in The Yellow Wallpaper reliable? The narrator of the story has mental health issues. Her slide into madness happens in the middle of the story and speed up at the end. Examine her reliability in the very beginning of the story.
  • Why doesn’t the main character have a name? Through the anonymity, the author might have wanted to show the readers that this is not an isolated event. Anyone who lived in the Victorian era could be the narrator and her husband.
  • How is the Victorian-era medicine represented in The Yellow Wallpaper ? To answer this question, you should research how patients were treated in the Victorian era. As it was already mentioned above, anyone could be in the narrator and her husband’s place.
  • How does The Yellow Wallpaper promote self-expression? Being unable to do the things you love is a frustrating thing. The narrator states a few times how much she enjoys writing but isn’t allowed to do that. Inability to express herself led to her isolation and her madness. In your essay, examine why is self-expression is vital to everyone. You can also investigate whether the narrator uses the wallpaper as a “paper” to write on. Can it be some self-expression? Think about it when you will write your thesis statement.
  • How are gender roles represented in The Yellow Wallpaper ? You can find a lot of examples to support The Yellow Wallpaper essay thesis on subordination. Here are some of them: the narrator stays in the room with the yellow wallpaper, although, she doesn’t want to stay there. Her husband does not allow her to stay in one of the others. He sets plenty of rules she must follow.
  • How do madness and creativity influence each other? You can use the idea that the inability to realize creative needs will lead to madness. You can compare and contrast the lives of many famous artists and writers’ destiny whose lives ended tragically when they were unable to express their ideas through creativity. Are all genius people mad?

🏆 The Yellow Wallpaper Essay Examples & Titles

  • The Yellow Wallpaper Throughout the story, the narrator, together with the rest of the women trapped in the wallpaper, is desperately trying to break loose from the function that the society has assigned for them.
  • Feminist Perspective on “The Yellow Wallpaper” From the interaction between John and Jane, the husband is a typical illustration of a spouse who has mastered the art of absolute control.
  • Comparing ‘The Story of an Hour’ and ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ Essay The first similarity between the ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ and ‘The story of an Hour is that the main characters in the stories are looking for freedom in vain.
  • Unreliable Narrator in Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper In addition, the narration talks about a “yellow wallpaper,” yet the narrator takes long before making an introduction to the subject of the story, hence bringing an element of confusion on what the subject is […]
  • Feminism in The Yellow Wallpaper In an attempt to free her, she rips apart the wallpaper and locks herself in the bedroom. The husband locks her wife in a room because of his beliefs that she needed a rest break.
  • A Rose for Emily and The Yellow Wallpaper: Compare & Contrast That is one of the main dangers that people should be aware of. This is one of the main points that can be made.
  • Gender Roles in The Yellow Wallpaper & Trifles The two texts; the short story ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ by Charlotte Perkins and the play ‘Trifles’ by Susan Glaspell strategically illustrate this claim since they both aim at attracting the reader’s attention to the poor […]
  • “The Yellow Wallpaper” a Story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman She tries to convince her husband John and one of her minders Jennie, to see the patterns she notices in the wallpaper of her upstairs room, which they, of course, cannot see: the narrator has […]
  • Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’: Point of View Through the means of it, the readers empathize with the Narrator as they follow the progression of the story. The Narrator’s point of view gives the reader a mental picture of the setting for the […]
  • Symbols in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by C. P. Gilman Gilman uses such important details as the smell of the wallpaper and shades of color to depict her feelings: “the only thing I can think of that it is like is the color of the […]
  • Symbolism in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman Main Points of The Yellow Wallpaper The basic aim of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is to reflect the oppression of women in the 19th century.
  • Solitude as a Theme in The Yellow Wallpaper & A Rose for Emily She is an embodiment of a great breakthrough in the fact that she rediscovers her new energy and point of view.
  • Psychology in Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” The reading of Gilman story’s few initial lines suggests that the reason why the narrator and her husband John decided to spend the summer in a secluded mansion is that this was supposed to help […]
  • Gender Roles in the 19th Century Society: Charlotte Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper However, the narrator’s developing madness can also act as the symbolical depiction of the effects of the men’s dominance on women and the female suppression in the 19th-century society.”The Yellow Wallpaper” was first published in […]
  • Loneliness in The Yellow Wallpaper She is beginning to personify the wallpaper in her musings. To nearly the end, she is lucid about people’s roles in her life.

📒 The Yellow Wallpaper Essay Prompts

  • “The Yellow Wallpaper” a Novel by Charlotte Perkins Gilman Thus, the imagery, particularly the woman behind the wallpaper, is a metonymic representation of social boundaries that most women had to face at the time, and a very powerful one at that Gilman clearly knew […]
  • Narrator’s Changing Character in “The Yellow Wallpaper” The story thus portrays the transformative reading potential in that had the narrator failed to realize that the reading has the potential to transform her. The yellow paper helped to transform the narrator in that […]
  • Chekhov’s “The Lady With the Little Dog” and Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” Malcolm’s magazine article named “The Kernel of Truth” supports the opinion that the explicit and intimate characters’ life description is the most interesting and significant part of the story.
  • Madness in “The Yellow Wallpaper” Story by Gilman The source of the conflict and the main cause of the woman’s unfortunate fate is not so much the mental illness itself but, rather, the refusal to recognize it as such.
  • Bradbury’s The Veldt & Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper At the beginning of the story we immediately know that something is wrong with the nursery, and we find out about the African Veldt and how it seems to be stuck in a rather wild […]
  • Depression due to Repression in The Yellow Wallpaper By the end of the same century, the patriarchal view of women as ‘natural born housewives’ and the objects of men’s sexual desire, had lost the remains of its former validity.
  • Marriage in The Yellow Wallpaper She has failed to recognize that she is the driver of her own life, and blame should not be put on man. Therefore, she is not able to work her creativity and ends up drawing […]
  • Literary Criticism of The Yellow Wallpaper by Gilman When she is isolated in the room, she notices a shadow emerging from the wallpaper and creeping over the walls and floor.
  • “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Gilman and “My Last Duchess” by Browning The narrator soon found herself observing the patterns of the yellow wallpaper of the room she stayed in. Eventually, the narrator began to perform the same behavior she observed from the women in the wallpaper.
  • Interpreting “The Yellow Wallpaper” The theme and problem of woman’s rights looming over the society of that day is demonstrated as the main issue at the core of the story.
  • Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” as a Gothic Horror Tale She does not, however, trust her own judgment, since, “If a physician of high standing, and one’s own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter…what is one to do?
  • Male Chauvinism in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman As it appears from the novel, the reason why the narrator and her husband John decided to spend their summer vacation in a secluded mansion is that this was assumed to prove beneficial to the […]
  • Mental Illness as a Theme of The Yellow Wallpaper As it appears from the novel, the reason why the narrator and her husband John decided to spend their summer vacation in a secluded mansion is that this proved beneficial to the narrator’s mental condition.
  • Analysis of the Gilman’s “Yellow Wallpaper” From the way she describes and interacts with the room, one can notice that she has a dislike and immense hatred towards the room she is confined in.
  • Female Mental Health in Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” The main role of a 19th-century woman was a loving nurturer, serving the needs of her family and obedient to her husband/father.

👍 The Yellow Wallpaper Essay Topics

  • Role of Women in Society: Charlotte P. Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” From the very beginning, it becomes evident that the protagonist of the short story is oppressed and the oppression is depicted symbolically.
  • Self-Expression in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Gilman The core of the problem related to the protagonist’s health is undefined in the short story. Thus, as the protagonist decides to free the woman in the wallpaper at the end of the story, she […]
  • Psychological Analysis of Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper The article explores the impact of mental illness from the perspective of postpartum/ nervous depression in the woman. 1 7, Web.
  • Charlotte Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” The main feature of this style is a sense of doom and often exaggeration to show the problems of ordinary people.
  • Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” Story Analysis The magic of the story arises from the innovative transfer of the experience of insanity in the first-person storytelling, showing the evolution of the image of the wallpaper and indicating their symbolic significance and ending, […]
  • Narrator’s Experience: “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Gilman The narrator is devastated by the fact that she is not allowed to write, as she is sure it would “relieve the press of ideas and rest” her.
  • “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman The value of the composition lies in the progressive moral it brought to the world of literature as well as social views, redirecting the social mind from the old patriarchal foundations to the recognition of […]
  • “Yellow Wallpaper” – A Creepy Shade of Yellow A simultaneously heavy and light-hearted style of the writing is a significant part of the narrative, which demonstrates the sharp contrast between the perception of the main heroine and the rest of the characters.
  • Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour”, Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”, and Walker’s “Everyday Use” It is remarkable that the language of The Story of An Hour speaks for the feelings of protagonist and the plot uncovering.
  • “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman The way she describes the wallpaper is symbolic of the evolution of her psychological problem: she gets to see herself through the wallpaper.
  • Conflict in ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ by C. Perkins Gilman The topic chosen from the story for analyzing is ‘To what extent is the protagonist of the story you have chosen responsible for the conflict or predicament he or she faces’.
  • Family Relationships in Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper Being the brain and the intellectual reason of the family, the husband wisely guides the ship of his matrimonial unit through all the possible mishaps and traps and takes the necessary precautions in order to […]
  • The Inner Struggles in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins The main element of the story is the gradual lowering of the protagonist into virtual insanity, punctuated with bouts of desperation and desire to be free and independent.
  • Charlotte Gilman’s Short Story “The Yellow Wallpaper” The room’s wallpaper is yellow and this woman becomes obsessed by the color and the patterns of the wallpaper ‘the color is dull and confuses the eyes, provoke studies and when watched closely can lead […]
  • “The Yellow Wallpaper” Short Story by Gilman In Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the unnamed female protagonist is instructed to rest in isolation and stillness in the large upper room of a remote country house that has bars on the windows […]

🖋️ The Yellow Wallpaper Research Paper Topics

  • The Insanity of Reading “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gliman John laughed at her about the wallpaper and initially meant to repaper the room but later changed his mind, believing that she was letting it get the better of heer.
  • ”The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin & ”The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Gilman: Comparing The characters of Louise Mallard in “The Story of an Hour” and the storyteller for “The Yellow Wallpaper” are representative of what the authors want to express about themselves and their current situation.
  • Depression in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Gillman The paper provides a discussion of the short story and analyses the theme of emotion and depression that the main character Stetson Gilman undergoes and her advent into insanity caused by the wrong treatment given […]
  • Families in ”A Rose for Emily” and ”Yellow Wallpaper” In prison with nothing to do, she eventually lost her mind and imagined that she was trapped in the yellow wallpaper.
  • Gender and Illness in Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” Additionally, the main form of psychological imprisonment was the character’s obedience to her husband who did not believe in her sickness and did not allow her to think that it was something more than a […]
  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” Gilman uses horror and suspense in the cautionary tale to demonstrate the effect of the supposed arest cures’ on the mental state of a patient.
  • “The Yellow Wallpaper” and The Laugh of the Medusa The topic of a woman’s voice being silenced by society and becoming heard in writing appears to be among the similar themes of the critical essay “The Laugh of the Medusa” by Cixous and the […]
  • Postpartum Depression Analysis in “Yellow Wallpaper” In reality, postpartum depression is the disease that has to be treated with the help of specific medications and therapies that are appropriate for a patient.
  • Stetson’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” Criticism Since the woman who narrates is alienated from the community and not allowed to work or be engaged in any other activity, she describes her inner thoughts and feelings, and that makes the whole story […]
  • “The Yellow Wallpaper” Story by Charlotte Gilman Temporary nervous depression, as termed by the husband, is a factor that makes the husband prohibits her from roaming in the rest of the house but only upstairs.
  • “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman Literature Analysis The same way as the woman behind the wall comes out, she also comes out of her slavery, and this shows that women can obtain freedom from social oppression they are undergoing as depicted in […]
  • Woman’s Mental Breakdown: “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman I tried to explain her that she got tired with her own thoughts and her melancholic mood is not a disease, but one of the peculiarities of her temperament and worldview.
  • Prosperity and Social Justice The short story was also the subject of debate when it was first written because it failed to fit in any particular genre at the time.”The Yellow Wallpaper” was mostly considered a horror story when […]
  • Charlotte Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper: Themes & Symbols The fact that the patient is the physician’s wife ought to portray a picture of mutual agreements and understandings rather than subjecting one’s decision to the other with a reason for care and protection.
  • The Need for Change in Ragged Dick and The Yellow Wallpaper However, the two authors articulate the importance of such changes that are vital for the development of the personality and the entire society.
  • Women Struggling From Their Fate She gets upset by the sad news of the death of a loved one but when she comes out of the room she seem to have already accepted the situation and adapting to the new […]
  • Feminist Criticism in “The Story of an Hour” and “The Yellow Wallpaper” This is because she is the only one who knew the suffering she was undergoing in that marriage and that she did not always love her husband.
  • Women’s Role in The Yellow Wallpaper, The Awakening, & The Revolt of Mother Sarah then decides to drop the matter because she knows that it is not her place to go against the wishes of her husband.
  • Chicago (A-D)
  • Chicago (N-B)

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  1. Symbolism in "The Yellow Wallpaper"

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  1. Symbols in "The Yellow Wallpaper" by C. P. Gilman Essay

    The yellow wallpaper is the main symbol of the story. This symbol represents the lunatic asylum where the main character is put. It becomes a prison for the protagonist limited her social life and physical activity. "The narrator describes the yellow wallpaper, the central symbol of this triumphantly suffocating domesticity, with elaborate ...

  2. The Symbolism of 'The Yellow Wallpaper' Explained

    By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University) 'The Yellow Wallpaper' is an 1892 short story by the American writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman. A powerful study of mental illness and the inhuman treatments administered in its name, the story succeeds largely because of its potent symbolism. Let's take a look at some of the key symbols in…

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    The Yellow Wallpaper as a Symbol of Hope. Finally, the yellow wallpaper should be regarded as a symbol of hope. Looking at the color, the protagonist feels safe. At the same time, the main character understands that the image in the wallpaper is considered to be a reflection of unhappy women who must creep to be a part of society.

  4. The Yellow Wallpaper

    The Yellow Wallpaper. When the narrator and her husband move to a country house because her husband—a doctor—has decided it will help her recover from a nervous breakdown soon after giving birth, they use an old nursery as their bedroom. The nursery is papered with a yellow wallpaper that the narrator finds hideous.

  5. The Yellow Wallpaper Symbols

    The Mysterious Figure. As the story progresses, the narrator begins to imagine that, in a certain light, a mysterious figure appears within the wallpaper. Eventually this figure takes on the form of a woman, and she seems… read analysis of The Mysterious Figure. Need help on symbols in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper?

  6. Understanding The Yellow Wallpaper: Summary and Analysis

    The Yellow Wallpaper Analysis: Symbols and Symbolism. Symbols are a way for the author to give the story meaning, and provide clues as to the themes and characters. ... For help analyzing literature and writing essays, read our expert guide on imagery, literary elements, and writing an argumentative essay.

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    The yellow wallpaper of the 'nursery' gives this story its title, and becomes an obsession of the narrator, who begins to view it as a living entity. Its significance shifts as the story progresses, but it is most importantly a symbol of the narrator's worsening mental state. It is partly a puzzle that confounds interpretation, a ...

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    In "The Yellow Wallpaper," Charlotte Perkins Gilman uses the symbolism of the wallpaper, the narrator's journal, and the nursery to represent the suppression and confinement of women in society in the late 1800s. The wallpaper is interpreted in various ways and can have two meanings, her controlling husband and how the society controls women.

  11. The Yellow Wallpaper Study Guide

    Full Title: The Yellow Wallpaper When Written: June, 1890 Where Written: California When Published: May, 1892 Literary Period: Gothic Genre: Short story; Gothic horror; Feminist literature Setting: Late nineteenth century, in a colonial mansion that has been rented for the summer. Most of the story's action takes place in a room at the top of the house that is referred to as the "nursery."

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  14. The Yellow Wallpaper Essay

    Here are five examples of strong thesis statements for your essay: 1. "In 'The Yellow Wallpaper,' Charlotte Perkins Gilman portrays the damaging effects of the patriarchy on women's mental health, highlighting the need for autonomy and self-expression." 2. "The symbolism of the yellow wallpaper reflects the protagonist's struggle for freedom ...

  15. The Yellow Wallpaper Themes

    Alongside its exploration of mental illness, The Yellow Wallpaper offers a critique of traditional gender roles as they were defined during the late nineteenth century, the time in which the story is set and was written. Charlotte Perkins Gilman was a prominent feminist, who rejected the trappings of traditional domestic life and published extensively about the role of women in society, and ...

  16. The Yellow Wallpaper Symbolism

    This essay will explore the symbolism in "The Yellow Wallpaper." It will analyze the wallpaper's representation of the protagonist's mental state, societal constraints, and the broader theme of female autonomy and liberation. ... "The Yellow Wallpaper," symbols are given that portray the message's underlying meaning within the ...

  17. The Yellow Wallpaper Free Essay Examples And Topic Ideas

    38 essay samples found. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a seminal piece of feminist literature, explores themes of mental illness, patriarchal oppression, and female autonomy. Essays could delve into the narrative structure, the symbolism of the wallpaper, and the psychological descent of the protagonist.

  18. Race, Pseudoscience, and "The Yellow Wallpaper"

    By Erika Mills and Kenneth M. Koyle ~ In "The Yellow Wallpaper," author Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935) tells the unsettling tale of a young mother who suffers a mental breakdown as she endures a regimen, meant to remedy her "nervous troubles," of bed confinement and complete abstinence from intellectual and social activity.The 1892 short story, considered part of the feminist ...

  19. 63 The Yellow Wallpaper Essay Topics & Examples

    In your essay on The Yellow Wallpaper, you might want to make a character or theme analysis.The key themes of the story are freedom of expression, gender roles and feminism, and mental illness. Another idea is to write an argumentative essay on the story's historical context.