Symbolism in The Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Gilman
are three predominant symbols throughout the story that lend credence to the woman’s suffrage theme. The yellow wall-paper itself is symbolic of the mental screen that men attempted to place on women during the 1800s. The color yellow is often associated with sickness or weakness, and the writer’s mysterious illness is a symbol of man’s oppression of the female sex. The two windows from which the writer often peers out of, observing the world but apart from it, is representative of the possibilities of women if seen as equals by the opposite sex.
The story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, was interesting with deep symbolic undertones. The story starts out with John and his wife moving to a colonial estate for the summer. Meanwhile, the woman finds the mansion to be “a haunted house” and still she thought it had something “queer” about it. This estate and her environment have much to do with this woman’s fate. The woman just had a baby, so most of her depression could come from this big event in her life but the baby is only mentioned a few times near the beginning of the story. After she settles in the new house, the yellow wallpaper starts to bother her, which is a key turning point in this woman’s life. “The Yellow Wallpaper” is symbolic for the main character’s sanity and her entrapment, physically and mentally.
As the story progresses, so does the main character. The main character that speaks in first person, believes that she is sick. John, her husband, as well as her brother are both physicians. They two believe she is sick. John on the other hand treats his wife with an almost demeaning attitude, calling her “little girl” and “little goose”. He treats her as a child at times, plus doesn’t really listen
The yellow wallpaper acts like a mental entrapment for the main character. At the end of the story, the main character rips down the yellow wallpaper to release the woman behind the paper. This was symbolic because even though she saw a woman, this woman was her. When the narrator was angry she put that onto the wallpaper, so that is why she ripped the wallpaper down. She was trapped behind the pattern and she couldn’t move from it. This is the point where her sickness has gotten to the worst extent. This woman is full on crazy now. The wallpaper led her to create her own madness. The main character says in the story, “There are things in the wallpaper that nobody knows about but me, or ever will.” (600). Not even John knew what was really going on because he was always working and never took his wife’s thoughts too seriously.
The yellow wallpaper also acts as physical entrapment to the main character. The wallpaper blocks her into that small room. She feels like she cannot get better in that room. In a sense she can’t get better in that room because of the things preventing her from resting. Her eyes are constantly on the yellow wallpaper. Forcing her to scrutinize the detailed pattern. Her mind also feels she cannot step away from the wallpaper.
The underlying symbol of the yellow wallpaper is the main character’s sanity. As the wallpaper changes so does the character’s attitude towards herself. When the character changes or progresses so does the main character
.The yellow wallpaper itself is the most obvious symbol in this story. The wallpaper represents the protagonist's mind set during this time. It further symbolizes the way women were perceived during the 19th century. The wallpaper cannot be categorized into any particular "type". It contains patterns, angles, and curves that all contradict one another, and it can be seen the same could be said for the wife's emotions during this time.
The nursery is a symbol of the way women of this time were seen as being on the same level as children. The barred windows are symbols of the confinement of women during this time with respect to the perception of what a woman's role was.
As for symbolic actions, the narrator's tearing down the wallpaper in an attempt to find the "woman" in the wallpaper represents her struggle to retain or regain her sanity. The wallpaper has been part of her confinement and by her tearing it down, she is freeing herself from that confinement.
Another symbol is the narrator's writings in her notebook and the notebook itself. Both represent the narrator's attempt to have normalcy and sanity during this horrible ordeal of being locked in her room. Despite being told by her husband that he wants to limit the amount of time she uses to write, she continues to write more behind his back and this is her tie to her own sanity and sense of reality (whatever her reality is at this time).