”The Yellow Wall-paper”, written by Charlotte Perkins Stetson, explores the attitudes of doctors towards women and mental illness in the late 19th century. Stetson, who herself was treated with the controversial “Rest Cure”, created by Dr. Weir Silas Mitchell, found herself infuriated at her treatment. Women were viewed as weak and perpetually nervous, especially in the medical community, which largely ignored real mental illnesses and struggles such as postpartum depression.
The Yellow Wallpaper Plot Diagram | The Yellow Wallpaper Summary
The narrator’s husband John has rented a house in the country for the summer while his wife recovers from temporary nervous depression. The narrator’s husband and brother are both physicians, and they insist that she abstain from most activity until she is well again. The narrator thinks that change and excitement would do her some good.
The narrator’s husband chooses a room with hideous yellow wallpaper for their bedroom, and the narrator spends a great deal of time there. The wallpaper has a strange and unsettling pattern. The narrator begins to focus heavily on the wallpaper each day, hating the color and becoming almost angry at the pattern.
The narrator writes secretively behind John’s back, as John believes writing will make the narrator’s nervousness worse. The narrator feels intense guilt at not being more of a help to John, and for her nervousness getting in the way of their lives. She continues to become more isolated and fancies that the pattern on the wallpaper begins to move.
The narrator continues to study the wallpaper, and notices that the pattern changes as the light in the room changes. She begins to see a woman creeping around behind the wallpaper. The wallpaper begins to assault her senses even when she is not there. The narrator doesn’t really sleep anymore, intently watching the woman in the wall move around the room.
The narrator begins to see the creeping woman wandering in the arbors and the garden. She grows sure that her husband is suspicious of her behavior. The day before they are supposed to return home, the narrator begins to strip the wallpaper from the walls to set the creeping woman free. She locks herself in the room and throws the key onto the front path.
John comes home and bangs on the bedroom door. The narrator tells him where the key is; when he opens the door, he cries out at what he finds. The narrator tells him that she’s gotten out of the wallpaper in spite of him, and has pulled off most of the wallpaper so he can’t put her back. She creeps around the room and over John’s body after he faints.