Draft Tutorial: Spring 2015 Literary Analysis
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins is a cautionary tale about driving a woman slowly insane. The main character is living in a haunted house surrounded by ghosts because she is a woman her husband does not take her seriously. The narrator attempts to tell her husband that something was wrong in the house but are hyper rational husband doesn't believe her. The woman records in a journal her interactions with the ghosts that live in the haunted mansion. The wife know something is wrong with the house but her hyper rational husband is sure he knows better.
The shrewd woman instantly recognizes there is something wrong with the home her husband has rented for the summer. She questioned instantly why “ordinary people” should be able to “secure ancestral halls for the summer” . Her first reaction would prove to be true at the end she announced her reasoning house so large to be available “I would say a haunted house”. It is really the only explanation why it should be “let so cheaply” and “stood so long untenanted”. She realizes instantly the “ghostliness” of the mansion and insists that “there is something strange about the house-I can feel it”.
Unfortunately for the narrator her husband John was “practical in the extreme” with “an intense horror of superstition”. If you'd only listen to his wife sooner the horrors that would follow may not have happened. He insists on putting her bedroom in the top floor nursery room.
The story starts sweetly enough with the kind loving husband finding a nice summer house for his wife after the birth of their first child. Because he is a physician she feels he must know better and ignores her initial doubts about the house. The poor wife can't even pick a room that she wants. Her husband refuses to redo the wallpaper in the room he chooses for her because he thinks “nothing is worse for a nervous patient than to give way to their fancies”. The wife will recognizes right away to the wallpaper is malevolent. With a ghost other women that occupied teens bedroom before her? Was the room and nursery, playroom, Jim? Nothing really explains the unusual features like the bars on the windows, the bed bolted to the floor, and the rings on the walls, are they the types that chains would've been attached to? The room begins to look like an asylum or home of someone who is driven crazy in the exact same bedroom.
Because the woman spends a great deal of time in this room the ghosts began to speak to her. The wife is cooped up all day and sleeps most of the day away so she's up all night. She notices that night the pattern on the wallpaper “in any kind of light, and twilight, candlelight, lamplight and worst of all by moonlight... Becomes bars” behind the bars is “the woman.... As plain as can be” further in the story the pattern of the wallpaper “lulls like a broken neck and two bulbous eyes stare at you upside down” only the narrator can see the caged woman behind the wallpaper. Even when she is not forced to look at the wallpaper she can't look out the windows saying “I don't like to look out the windows even-there are so many of those creeping women, and they creep so fast.” The ghost and eventually many ghosts are actually haunting the poor narrator and her confinement to a room with them makes matters much worse
They are even more obvious signs that the bedroom is haunted and it is shocking that her husband does not notice care to notice them. The “bedstand is fairly gnawed” you would think that would be enough for John to rethink his choice of not only rooms but the house itself. We later learn that the room has barred windows, rings on the wall that looked like they perhaps are designed to restrain mental patients. The bed is nailed to the floor. The poor woman is terribly mistreated by her husband. The wife is treated like a child and kept in one room like a prisoner. In the beginning the wife rebels against her husband by keeping a secret diary but John discovers the diary and destroys it. The wife has no social interactions and her husband rarely comes home so she's left with no emotional support when the ghost began to terrorize her for days at a time. When she does try to reach out to John and tell him about the ghosts he's patronizing and dismisses her. The poor wife is so submissive to her husband she stops even trying to play any real role in her own marriage and her own life.
by the end of the story the woman has had so much connection with the supernatural and the women living behind the wallpaper that she is worried she will become a ghost or self. She wonders if she was the first woman to go mad in that room where she is just one of many. It's as if it was inevitable that once she entered the room that she would share their feet in the closely supernatural world they live in behind the wallpaper. She “wonders if they all coming creeping out of the wallpaper as she did” and worries “I suppose I shall half to get back behind the pattern when it comes night, and that is hard!”. She worries about becoming trapped behind the bars of the wallpaper in being forced to creep out to the next poor woman who stuck in this room as she has been. The wife sees creeping women everywhere not only behind the wallpaper that around the gardens on their hands and knees as well. The narrator eventually meets one of the trapped women behind the wallpaper who seems angry at her saying “I've got out at last, said I, in spite of you and Jane”. Apparently one of the trapped women was named Jane and somehow blames the poor wife for her predicament. The wife says that the woman creeps on the walls and she's trying to help free her by gradually peeling away the wallpaper prison. Eventually the wife no longer wants to leave the room. Or perhaps is the wife gradually declining into insanity and now alluding to herself in the third person perhaps she is the Jane in the wallpaper? Perhaps she is already died or is in an asylum and having flashbacks about another life or another time?
At the end you wonder if the narrator has been taken over by the ghosts. Was she ultimately assessed by some sort of demon?
John becomes completely irrational at the end of the story and breaks down the door with an ax. Once in the room his entire belief system is turned on its head and his ridiculous hold on being rational at all costs takes a toll on him any feet step away. His wife asking “now why should that man have fainted?” Because of course are her here when has known all along that these ghost existed and tried to tell him for months now that he simply wouldn't believe her.