The Yellow Wallpaper

By Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Charlotte Perkins Gilman was born on July 3, 1860. She is an American feminist, sociologist, and author born in Hartford, Connecticut. Charlotte only had one brother after her mother was advised that she’d die if she attempted to have another child. At the age of 5, Charlotte taught herself how to read after her mother became ill. Her mother showed no affection toward her children, only when she they were asleep. From a young age, Charlotte’s mother forbid her from read fiction and making strong friendships to prevent her from getting hurt like she herself had been. Eventually, Charlotte was influenced by her father’s love for literature. In 1884, Charlotte married Charles Walter Stetson. They had only one child but Charlotte suffered from postpartum depression for some months after the birth of her daughter. In 1894, she and Charles divorced. Charlotte moved away to California with with her daughter but eventually sent her daughter away to live with her former husband and his new wife. Charlotte soon came in contact with Houghton Gilman, her first cousin. They spent a lot of time together and soon became romantically involved. They married in 1900. In 1934, Gilman developed a cerebral hemorrhage and died. In 1932, Charlotte had be diagnosed with incurable breast cancer. She committed suicide in 1935 by taking a dosage of chloroform. In bother her autobiography and suicide note she wrote that she “chose chloroform over cancer”.


The story begins when the narrator and her husband, John, arrive at a beautiful secluded home where they would be staying for the summer. The narrator is believed to suffer with with nervous depression and is ordered to basically rest all day. On arrival, John picks a room with a yellow wallpaper for the couple to stay in. The narrator feels uncomfortable in the room chosen but ignores her feelings and does as she is told. The narrator talks about her love for writing, but her husband doesn’t believe it’s a good idea. Regardless, she continues to secretly write in her diary. With time, the narrator becomes obsessed with the yellow wallpaper in the bedroom. She traces the patterns with her finger and becomes convinced that there is a woman trapped behind the wallpaper. Throughout the story the narrator continues to talk about this woman and the women that creep around. Shortly before the narrator must depart from the summer home, she decides that she must first free the woman behind the wallpaper. She begins tearing and pulling at the wallpaper. When John arrives into the room, the narrator exclaims that she is finally free. John faints at the sight of his wife creeping around and pulling at the wallpaper. The story ends with the narrator creeping around the room and over her husband.

Literary Terms

  • Verbal irony

    • using words to express the opposite of the literal meaning

    • "John laughs at me, of course, one expects that in marriage"

  • Foreshadow

    • hinting at possible future events

    • "There is something strange about this house-I can feel it"

  • Symbolism

    • using objects to represent larger ideas

    • The wallpaper symbolizes something that affects her directly


“I sometimes fancy that in my condition,if I had less opposition and more society and stimulus - but John says the very worst thing I can do is to think about my condition, and I confess it always makes me feel bad.” - The Narrator

“I’m getting really fond of the room in spite of the wallpaper. Perhaps because of the wallpaper. It dwells on my mind so!” - The Narrator

“I don’t like to look out of the windows even—there are so many of those creeping women, and they creep so fast. I wonder if they all came out of that wallpaper as I did?” - The Narrator


  • Felicity - intense happiness
  • Impertinence - lack of respect and rudeness
  • Misconstrued - interpret wrongly