Analysis of Charlotte Gilmans' "The Yellow Wallpaper"

Essay by zebstripedUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, April 2004

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The Yellow Wallpaper is a first-person narrative, which on one hand can be very limiting in what information is revealed to the reader. Not only can this single voice remember facts differently than other witnesses, the reader must realize that the narrator may not even be telling the truth. On the other hand, the first-person perspective gives a sense of "knowing" the narrator, by being able to read their thoughts. By writing the story as a first-person account in journal form, the reader gets a first hand look at the thoughts of the narrator. There is no reason for lies or deceit as the journal is a trusted friend. What telling the story this way loses are the thoughts of those around the narrator. We don't really know what John is thinking or what drives him to make the decisions he does regarding his wife's physical and mental health.

The story uses symbolism throughout, from the description of the room she is in, to the descriptions of her surroundings.

The author goes through great pains to project that this woman is imprisoned and held beyond her will. The estate itself has "hedges and walls and gates that lock, and lots of separate little houses for the gardeners and people...I never saw such a garden, large and shady, full of box-bordered paths..." all relating to containers, enclosures or cells. The deeper meaning is the confinement of Jane, and her need for escape. This in not only a story of madness, it is a story about a woman who is not allowed to think on her own behalf. She has little to no input in family matters or even matters concerning her own health. She is almost forced, by those around her, to sit idly with nothing to do but go crazy.