What Does the Room Symbolize in the Yellow Wallpaper?

Most of the story takes place in the narrator’s room which is overrun by a hideous yellow wallpaper. This particular wallpaper has many symbolic characteristics that lead to a number of interpretations.

Gilman uses the wallpaper to represent domestic life and the way that women are controlled by patriarchal society. The wallpaper, when viewed at night in twilight or lamplight, becomes bars which represent the narrator’s controlling husband.

The Room

Gilman uses the room and the wallpaper to symbolize the narrator’s confinement. Her obsession with the pattern traps her thoughts and keeps her from doing anything else. In the story she describes how it changes under different light: “At twilight, by candlelight, and even in moonlight, the outside pattern becomes bars which hold a woman as plain as can be.”

The color yellow is significant as well. It is a color that represents illness and disease. The fact that the room used to be a nursery suggests that it was originally meant to contain a sick person.

The narrator’s obsession with the pattern is also symbolic of her deteriorating mental state. She spends hours describing its details, such as how it smells and the way it moves under various light. She eventually comes to believe that she is the woman in the pattern and that she is shaking her bars. Her eventual release coincides with her ceasing to write in her journal and moving into the wallpaper.

The Pattern

The patterns on the wallpaper are nightmarish and hideous, a metaphor for domestic life that traps women. The narrator’s obsession with the pattern and her repulsion at seeing the woman behind it illustrates how she feels about being trapped by tradition, medicine, and her husband.

Her disordered mental state leads her to see all manner of figures in the wallpaper’s patterns, including a woman that she describes as “stooping and crawling about behind that horrid pattern.” At night the paper seems to come alive and change. By twilight, moonlight, and lamplight the narrator’s pattern becomes bars that resemble a cage. For more info, do visit this website wallpaper singapore.

The narrator’s husband encourages her to rest more, and she hides her writing from him. He wants her to keep up with housework, but she believes that if she does not write, she will go insane. The story makes use of dramatic irony, in which the reader knows something that the characters do not. This is also known as situational irony.

The Bed

The narrator tries to escape her prison by creeping along the marks on the wall, but when John comes to take her home she refuses to leave. She claims that she can see the woman in her wallpaper and that she is freeing her.

The woman in the wallpaper is seen ‘taking hold of the bars and shak[ing them] hard.’ This symbolism suggests that the narrator is trying to escape her mental imprisonment. However, she cannot do this without going crazy.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote The Yellow Wallpaper to show the oppressive world of 19th century society that women lived in. At this time, women could not work, vote, or even speak in public. They were also legally owned by their husbands and could only inherit a third of their estate upon their death. This meant that the majority of their lives were spent in their homes, isolated from society. This isolation led to depression and mental illness.

The Bars

At the beginning of the story the ugly yellow wallpaper seemed to represent a prison. The narrator could not escape from this prison because of the bars on the windows and the rings that were on the walls. As the story went on though the room and the wallpaper started to symbolize freedom.

This was because the narrator was able to escape from the wallpaper at night but she was not allowed to do so during the day. This was because the narrator’s husband saw her only during the day.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman used the bars on the wallpaper to symbolize the narrator’s inability to break free of her husband and society. She was trapped behind the generic expectations that she was supposed to conform to and this drove her insane. The narrator was starting to turn into her conventional self and she wanted to be free of the other part of herself, which was the woman in the wallpaper.


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