The Yellow Wallpaper

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In Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper," the wallpaper is a symbol which represents the narrator's personality. Since the initial description of the rented mansion, eeriness is present throughout the story. "Still I will proudly declare that there is something queer about it. Else, why should it be let so cheaply? And why have stood so long untenanted?" (paragraph 3). These questions, posed by the mentally ill narrator, imply a strangeness regarding the mansion. The narrator's initial description of the wallpaper claims, "The paint and paper look as if a boys' school had used it. It is stripped off—the paper—in great patches all around the head of my bed, about as far as I can reach, and in a great place on the other side of the room low down. I never saw a worse paper in my life. One of those sprawling, flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin." (paragraph 32). This is an unusual description for wallpaper in a mansion. The fact that it is stripped off in great patches suggests an uneven and unbalanced appearance or personality. The narrator continues, "It is dull enough to confuse the eye in following, pronounced enough constantly to irritate and provoke study, and when you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide—plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard-of contradictions." (paragraph 33). Here, she describes herself through the eyes of John and her brother, both practical, logical physicians.

The narrator believes that people see her as she sees the wallpaper, which, in turn, is how she sees herself. In paragraph 78 she states, "I can see a strange, provoking formless sort of figure that seems to skulk about behind that silly and conspicuous front design." This is initial evidence of the narrator beginning to use the wallpaper as a way to see herself.

The wallpaper also serves as a distraction to the narrator, who often spends hours analyzing its...
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