The Yellow Wallpaper Close Reading The narrator of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman discovers that the woman trapped in the yellow wallpaper is really herself and reflects that there are countless other women trapped and oppressed by society just as she is. Through her descent into madness, the narrator is able to finally free herself, but not without losing her sanity in the process. When the narrator states: “I pulled and she shook, I shook and she pulled” (Gilman 517), this goes to demonstrate that the woman in the wall that she’s been trying to free is really herself.
The woman trapped in the wallpaper is a significant metaphor to represent that the narrator is trapped in an oppressive society, and more specifically marriage, where she is wrongfully confined to isolation as a “cure” to her madness. Furthermore, the narrator intends to tie up the woman in the wallpaper if she tries to get away, but ends up “securely fastened now by [her] well-hidden rope” (Gilman 518). She is indeed the woman that she is so desperately trying to save. The recurrent imagery of the women in the wallpaper is a strong statement about the unjust treatment of women in the late nineteenth century.The narrator realizes that she is not alone in her suffering as she doesn’t like to look out of the windows because “there are so many of those creeping women, and they creep so fast” (Gilman 518). Normally, windows are a symbol of opportunities, but in this case the window is a symbol of reality that the narrator does not want to face. She is distressed at the thought of other women suffering as she has, and so prefers to stay creeping inside the room, away from the cruel reality of society.As the narrator tears down the wallpaper in an effort to free herself and the trapped women, she realizes that she cannot “reach far without something to stand on” (Gilman 517).
This demonstrates how she cannot do much to help herself alone. Without any support from others in society, it is evident that women like her were helpless and doomed to madness or misery. The room itself is a symbol of the wicked “treatment” of women suffering nervous disorders.
While, the narrator refers to the room as a nursery, the circumstances suggest that the room was really used to “treat” women like the narrator from similar illnesses.The room has a bolted down bed that “is fairly gnawed” (Gilman 517), which the narrator bites a piece off of in frustration, suggesting it was under similar circumstances that the bed came to be gnawed. Therefore, the narrator’s creeping inside the room is the only way for her to be part of society, as in the room she can “creep smoothly on the floor, and [her] shoulder fits…
so [she] cannot lose [her] way” (Gilman 518). She has to suppress and hide her true self in front of others, even her husband, as many women had to during those times.The diction and tone demonstrate a wonderful descent into madness. The story is written in first person, allowing us to better understand the narrator’s state of mind. As the story progresses, there is an abundant use of exclamation marks, giving off an erratic, exited tone. Many sentences are short and choppy, portraying the uncertain and off-balance state of mind of the narrator.
Although it is clear that the narrator has finally lost her mind, the ending of The Yellow Wallpaper is still fairly ambiguous.It suggests that the narrator was finally able to free herself, although she did lose her sanity in the process. This is evident as she casually remarks that “jumping out the window would be an admirable exercise” (Gilman 518) at which point it is clear that the narrator is not well. Nonetheless, at the very end she exclaims to her husband that she finally got out, “in spite of [him] and Jane” (Gilman 518).
Up to this point the narrator has been unnamed, to demonstrate that the situation is not unique to her, but applies to many similar suffering women.However, the fact that she finally names herself, and in third person, signifies that she finally detaches from her former, proper self, and allows herself to be free in her own mind, imagination, and creativity. Jane was also a very common name at that time, representing how the narrator broke free from the norms of what women were expected to be. One final way in which the narrator triumphed is in the irony in the fact that John fainted at the end of the story. Fainting is general considered a feminine display of weakness, which allowed for somewhat of a gender switch between the narrator and John (Wayne).The narrator assumed the dominant role in the relationship, as she “had to creep over him every time! ” (Gilman 518). This places a repeated emphasis on the narrators’ final liberation and declares her superiority over and over again (Wayne). In this way, the narrator was able to set herself free, although it was at the cost of her sanity.
Works Cited Wayne, Teddy. “The Yellow Wallpaper Summary and Analysis. ” The Yellow Wallpaper Study Guide. GradeSaver, 30 Nov. 2008. Web.
14 Oct. 2012. <http://www. gradesaver. com/the-yellow-wallpaper/study-guide/section6/>.