Analysis of Yellow Wallpaper

The Plot

In this story we can speak of a unified plot because a clear sequence of beginning, middle and end is established.

In the beginning we get information about where she and her husband will spend the summer , about who is involved in the story and also about why she is in this summer estate.

The middle part, which makes out most of the story, is a description of what she is doing all day , of the wallpaper and of the gradual turning insane.

The end of the story is rather clear – the protagonist finally turns insane.

Another thing we can find is a chronological order of events. There is no use of flashbacks, and only to some extent can we talk of foreshadowing (it is clear that the protagonist must turn insane).

Tension is created gradually throughout the story, the suspense in the story appeals to our curiosity. We want to know what happens next. The reason for this suspense is that the main character needs some time to finally figure out what she sees behind the wallpaper pattern. With her firm will to find out what she sees, the reader has the feeling that he must stay with her until she knows what it is. There are two quotes that underline that very well. “… and I determine for the thousandth time that I will follow that pattern to some sort of a conclusion.” (Gilman, Wallpaper 291) “I don’t want to leave now until I have found it out.” (Gilman, Wallpaper 296)

Concerning the end of the story there are two ways to see it: either as an open ending or not. In the end when she frees herself we don’t get a real solution of the conflict, even though she mentions that in the end she freed herself. But did she really free herself? Or was it maybe just her imagination? It might be that for herself it was satisfaction enough to free the woman in the wallpaper. But we also don’t get to know what happens to her later on. Is she taken into a mental home or is she sent to Dr. Mitchell in fall? That’ s why we could say that the story has an open ending.

On the other hand the protagonist freed herself from the dominant relationship between her and the husband by turning insane. She has achieved independence from him, but she also freed herself to some extent from the society. Looking at the story from that point of view, the protagonist solved her conflict and therefore we could say that the conclusion of The Yellow Wallpaper ends the conflict and we do not have an open ending.

The Setting

The story takes place in an old nursery room on the second floor of a colonial mansion. The reader easily gets the impression that the protagonist was treated like a child since it was the husband who chose the former nursery to be her room but also because her condition was not taken seriously. This attitude is also conveyed in the way John talks to his wife. e.g. “ ‘What is it, little girl ?’ he said. ‘Don’t go walking about like that – you’ll get cold.’” (Gilman, Wallpaper 293)

In the case of this story the social setting, the cultural environment and the ‘spirit of the age’ play an important role as well. The story is set5 in the late 1800’s, a time when a woman had to face hard repression by men. It was a time when men still made all the decisions for their wives, when men knew what was good for women.

Point of View

The Yellow Wallpaper is presented by a first person narrator who is also the protagonist of the story. One effect of the protagonist-narrator is that he is much more limited in his mobility and in the range of variety of his sources. The perspective of a protagonist-narrator tends to be that of a fixed centre (Rotter 187-88).

Another interesting question is whether the narrator is reliable or not. An unreliable narrator represents himself not as fully understanding the plot and the reader is not expected to take everything the narrator says at its face value (Rotter 188)

In the case of our narrator we can say that there’s a development