A Critical analysis of the short-story ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ by Charlotte Perkins Stetson


Every piece of Art reflects the Artist. The Yellow Wallpaper’ by Charlotte Perkins Stetson is a unique short story that represents the genius of the writer and her harsh observations of life. It also is a graph of the early 20th Century American Literary tradition. Charlotte was born in Hartford, Conn in the year 1860. Abandoned by her father, she was reared by her mother and relatives. After her marriage in the year 1884, she became the victim of the disease ‘depression’. She was wrongly advised to take rest which made her condition even worse. She got divorced and finally took her pen to ink writings and took part in the Feminist Movement in America. The hostile experience in her own life made her hair grey enough to express her thoughts that rightly bear a strong resistance against the male dominion of the Society. The short story The Yellow Wallpaper’ has been marked by her genius and versatility.

The story is written in a ‘first-person narrative style’ that certainly adds an extra flavor to the readers. The plot of the story depicts that the narrator was afflicted with nervous prostration and was taken by John, her husband, and a well-established doctor as well, to a large old-fashioned mansion having an old garden with it. She was advised to take a rest completely. But there, in her upper nursery room having big windows with a beautiful outside view, she had a strange experience with certain yellow papers which she didn’t like initially but became addicted to watching the yellow paper later. She saw, first, a creeping woman who was trying to make her free from the sub-patterns of the yellow paper and finally saw a lot of creepy women, struggling to make them free. She tried to make them free by tearing the yellow paper but finally, she was succumbed and was creeping by herself. The story ended up with her creeping over her husband who broke the door and fainted to see her creeping like that insane way.  

           The whole story is a kind of revolt against the male-dominion in the society where women were vehemently resisted to create their own identities. In the beginning part of the story, we can find the lines like-

John is a physician, and perhaps – (I would not say it to a living soul, of course, but this is dead paper and a great relief to my mind -) perhaps that is one reason I do not get well faster.”

The above lines distinctly convey her deep agony and helplessness. If we read further, we can several lines that depict her loneliness and the real cause of her severe depression. The narrator tries to find her identity which is lost. In the name of complete rest, she was intentionally resisted to works of her preferences. The character John represents the male dominion in society. The following lines prominently indicate this.

“…” until I am well again. 

Personally, I disagree with their ideas. 

Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good.”

The lonely house and its solitary garden are the symbols of her lonely life. 


“It is quite alone, standing well back from the road, quite three miles from the village.”


 And the creeping women actually symbolize her own struggle to become a free soul with all her own talents and preferences to establish her own identity in life. And the yellow pages stand for her own suffocating living. The symbolic speech of the narrator towards the end of the short story reveals this.

“I’ve got out at last,” said I, ” in spite of you and Jane? And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back! “”


Her frantic creeping over her fain husband symbolically stands for her freedom at the end.

 The Short story The Yellow Wallpaper’ has different shades. The story was first published in ‘The New England Magazine’ in January in the year 1892. The story though seems to be simple, yet it reflects the seriousness and mental torture of a lady. Modern researches also point to another shade of this story. The story is marked with gay and lesbian studies that were prominent in the early 19th Century. According to Jonathan Crewe, the story represents the narrator’s consciousness of her kinship with the trapped women in the yellow wallpaper to make an argument that we notice elements that John himself sought to squelch in re-establishing heterosexuality as the norm.


Work Cited:

  • Klarer, M. (2014). Short Literary History of the United States. Florence: Taylor and Francis.


  • Thrailkill, J. (2007). Affecting fictions. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.


  • Bendixen, A., & Serafin, S. (2001). The Continuum encyclopedia of American literature. New York: Continuum.

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