”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 wallpaper symbolizes the trapped woman inside of the narrator, who is ill and in need of help, but is brushed off as weak and nervous by male doctors. It embodies her mental breakdown when she frees the woman behind the wallpaper. In her breakdown, the narrator finds freedom.
The hidden diary that the narrator keeps becomes a source of freedom of thought and expression. It is a place where she can express her fears, guilt, and resentment at her husband and her doctors for a treatment that makes her worse. It is also where she can express frustration at her isolation from family and friends.
As the sun moves across the room, the narrator sees the changes in the wallpaper patterns. In the moonlight, the pattern is like bars, hiding the trapped woman. By day, the trapped woman is subdued and quiet; by night, she awakens and shakes the bars to escape, much like the inner turmoil and illness of the narrator.