Short Story

Analysis of “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Summary of “The Yellow Wallpaper”

“The Yellow Wallpaper” is a short story Written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a celebrated American writer. First published in 1892, the story is about a woman struggling with depression and is put on bed rest by her husband, a physician, who believes it will cure her condition. Instead, the woman is confined to a room with yellow Wallpaper, which she finds both unsettling and intriguing.

As the days pass, the woman becomes increasingly obsessed with the Wallpaper. She finds patterns in the paper and becomes convinced that a figure is trapped behind it. The woman’s mental state deteriorates as she tries to free the figure she believes is trapped in the Wallpaper. She becomes increasingly erratic, tearing at the Wallpaper and crawling around the room to release the figure.

The story is often seen as an allegory for the oppression of women in a male-dominated society. The woman in the story faces her husband’s cruelty, who controls her every move and forbids her from engaging in meaningful work or intellectual pursuits. The yellow Wallpaper symbolizes the constraints and limitations placed on women by society. The woman’s descent into madness can be seen as a metaphor for the psychological effects of these constraints on women.

The story was groundbreaking in its portrayal of a woman struggling with mental illness, and Gilman’s advocacy for women’s rights and the need for more effective treatment for mental health issues is evident in the story. “The Yellow Wallpaper” is considered a classic of feminist literature and continues to be widely read and studied today.

Analysis of “The Yellow Wallpaper”

This iconic story centers around the protagonist, a young woman suffering from postpartum depression, and her experience of being confined to a room with yellow Wallpaper as a form of treatment by her physician husband. The story is considered a classic of feminist literature and is still widely read and studied today.

The story criticizes the medical establishment and the societal expectations placed on women in the 19th century. The protagonist’s husband, who is also her physician, insists that she follow his prescribed treatment of being confined to a room with yellow Wallpaper and not engaging in physical or mental exertion. This treatment was commonly used at the time to treat women suffering from “hysteria,” a diagnosis that was often used to dismiss women’s complaints about mental health. Gilman was herself diagnosed with hysteria and underwent this type of treatment, which inspired her to write this story.

The protagonist’s confinement in the room and her inability to engage in any form of mental or physical stimulation exacerbates her mental health issues, leading to her descent into madness. The yellow Wallpaper plays a symbolic role in the story, representing the protagonist’s feelings of entrapment and her growing desperation. The Wallpaper becomes a focus of her obsession, and she begins to see figures trapped within it, reflecting her own sense of confinement.

The story also highlights the power dynamics between men and women in the 19th century, with the protagonist’s husband completely controlling her life and treatment. The story also critiques the societal expectations on women to be passive and submissive, with the protagonist’s husband not listening to her complaints and insisting that she follow his prescribed treatment.

Thematic Analysis

Charlotte Perkins Gilman has highlighted several universal themes in the story, such as women’s rights, mental illness, and the oppression of women in patriarchal societies.

One of the most prominent themes in “The Yellow Wallpaper” is the oppression of women in patriarchal societies. Throughout the story, the protagonist is forced to conform to her husband’s expectations, who believes that women should not engage in any form of creative expression. This theme is particularly relevant in the late 19th century when women were still fighting for the right to vote and more excellent public representation.

Another critical theme in the story is mental illness. The protagonist is struggling with a mental illness that is exacerbated by the restrictions placed on her by her husband. Her confinement to a small room with only the yellow Wallpaper for company drives her to madness. Her descent into madness is a powerful commentary on the effects of oppressive patriarchal systems on women’s mental health.

The theme of women’s rights is also present in the story as the protagonist struggles to assert her own autonomy and independence. However, she is denied the right to express herself creatively, and her husband dismisses her concerns and opinions. This mirrors the larger struggle of women in the late 19th century, who were fighting for the right to be seen as equal to men in all aspects of life.

“The Yellow Wallpaper” also explores themes of creativity and the role of art in society. Her husband suppresses the protagonist’s passion for writing, and her creative expression is restricted to her secret writing in a journal. The protagonist’s use of the yellow Wallpaper as a canvas for her own imagination highlights the importance of creativity and self-expression in a society that seeks to stifle it.


In conclusion, “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a powerful critique of the medical establishment and societal expectations placed on women in the 19th century. Gilman’s story sheds light on the harmful effects of treating women as passive and submissive and the damaging impact of this treatment on their mental health. The story is still widely read and studied today and continues to be relevant as a critique of the oppressive societal norms that exist in various forms today.

Suggested Readings

Analysis of “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” by Gabriel García Márquez

Analysis of “Dead Man’s Path” by Chinua Achebe

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