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The yellow Wallpaper-A yearning for escape

Updated on July 7, 2016
Lisawilliamsj profile image

Lisa is a substitute teacher who studies English Literature. She lives to write and is following her dream of becoming a professor.


My first impression of the story, The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Gilmore; is that this is a story about escape, about a woman who yearns for freedom so bad that she creates an alternate personality, in which she sets free in the end. The narrator was not insane in the beginning. She was most likely suffering from postpartum depression, which was exasperated by isolation, to the point of insanity. This became copiously apparent when she wrote, “It is fortunate that Mary is good with the baby, such a dear baby, and yet I cannot be with him; it makes me so nervous” (Barnet, Burto, & Cain, 2014, p. 45). what's worse is, her husband who is supposed to be a physician, seemed to be cruel and dominating.

Interestingly, as I reviewed the story for a second time, I was quickly able to make an inference. It became abundantly clear that this was not just a story of a woman’s downward spiral into insanity. This is a story about a woman who wanted to do something with her life, but could not escape from the walls, of her husband’s controlling nature. She mentions how she “takes pain to control herself before him” (Barnet, et al (2014), p.24) and “He hardly lets me stir, without special direction” (Barnet, et al (2014), p.26).

In this story, the writer uses the writing strategies: characterization and imagery, effectively. I was drawn in by the narrator’s sadness and pain, from the start. As the story progresses, I understand that the narrator wanted to write, and become more than a housewife. When she writes “She is a perfect and enthusiastic housekeeper, and hopes for no better profession” (Barnet, et al (2014), p.75), about her husband’s sister, she is saying it with distaste. This is not the life she had planned. As a new mother, she is overwhelmed, and made to believe that nothing is wrong with her. She wants to get out and talk to people and write, but her husband’s will not allow it. He makes her stay at home, and even sometimes makes her sleep away the day. He is asserting complete and total dominance, and she just wants to break free.

Strikingly, her need to break free is what brings imagery into the story. The narrator makes a simple request to her husband, to sleep downstairs because all of the rooms downstairs are beautiful. Her husband would not even allow her this one little comfort. In addition, he went as far as refusing to change the wallpaper, which she found so hideously distracting. Imagery was used to show the change in her mental health. As the wallpaper changed, she spiraled further into her abyss.


The narrator began to relate the wallpaper to her own life. She started seeing a woman trapped in the walls, one who could only get out when it was daylight. When she wrote about “A woman stooping down and creeping about behind the pattern,” she was starting to identify with the woman in the wallpaper. She was stooped down with the weight of her unfulfilled desires, and her domineering husband. At the end of the story, when she had completely lost her mind she writes, “I’ve got out at last, In spite of you and Jane, and I have pulled off most of the paper so you cannot put me back in”(Barnet, et al (2014), p.260). As the story is ending, her husband faints. This leaves the reader to question what happened next. Did she have to be institutionalized? Did she get better, and leave her husband? Did her husband realize his mistakes and change his ways? Unfortunately, nobody will ever know. However, if someone went so far as to examine the life of the author, it would not be unreasonable for them to infer that the narrator did, indeed, escape in the end.


In my opinion, this story was written for all woman. It is a message to say that it is okay to break away, before it is too late. The theme of this tale, is based around the desire to escape. If any one thing had changed, the narrator may have gotten better, instead of worse. It is possible that her husband recognized her urge to be free, and this is why he chose to isolate her. I can relate to this story because I was stuck in a bad marriage. I know what it feels like to yearn to escape.

In conclusion, The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Gilmore was a story, which at first glance seems, cut and dry. Some would say that this is just a morbid view of a woman’s mental decline. However, when the story is more closely examined, it is revealed that this story is about so much more. This is a story about a mentally abused woman’s yearning for escape, and the eventual realization of said escape.


Barnet, S., Burto, W., & Cain, W. (2014). Literature for composition: An Introduction to literature (10th ed.). New York, New York: longman.


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    • Lisawilliamsj profile image

      Lisa Williams 4 years ago

      Thank yo so much bill, you are such a kind soul!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      One of the best-written book reviews I have read. Your attention to detail and style shine through in this excellent work, Lisa! Well done.

    • Lisawilliamsj profile image

      Lisa Williams 4 years ago

      Thank you so much for your kind reply. It was definitely an interesting story!

    • rasta1 profile image

      Marvin Parke 4 years ago from Jamaica

      An excellent examination and break down of the story. Sounds like a book I would love to read.