Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” portrays mental illness in the most purest form possible. The narrator of the story is the one suffering from this illness. We as the reader get to live through how she felt, what she thought and how everyone else reacted to her.
Although her illness was continuously brought up throughout the story, so was the wallpaper. Not by others, it was the narrator herself obsessing over the wallpaper. From the moment she steps into the house she says that “there is something strange about the house.” (page 1, paragraph 20) She then roams around the house and sees the wallpaper which she says that she “never saw a worse paper in my life.” (page 2, paragraph 6) This is where the story takes off.
At this point she begins to analyze the wallpaper. She criticizes the patterns and the odd color of the wallpaper. With each passing day she becomes more and more obsessed with the wallpaper. She begins to see eyes staring at her. She continues by saying “I never saw so much expression in an inanimate thing before.” (page 3, paragraph 12) The “eyes” she sees start to become more visible to her as she continues to focus on the wallpaper. She also notices that in different lighting you can see certain patterns more clearly. Where the sun gets the wallpaper just right she sees “a strange, provoking, formless sort of figure.” (page 4, first paragraph)
Now that she has seen this “figure” her obsession grows much more. Even though it creeps her out it has her attention. She begins to see the paper move. Eventually she comes to the conclusion that there is a woman behind the wallpaper that shakes it. This woman also escapes the wallpaper in the daytime. Every window she looks out of she sees this woman. No matter how fast she looks elsewhere this woman is standing creeping on her.
On the last day, she tries and helps this woman get out of the wallpaper. Oddly enough, after she decides to catch the woman with a rope she says “I wonder if they all come out of that wall-paper as I did?”(page 9, paragraph 14) Why does she now refer to herself as coming out of the wallpaper when she never was in it? At this point in the story, she is alone. No one is there to check on her or stop her from doing anything. She says “it is so pleasant to be out in this great room and creep around as I please.” (page 9, paragraph 17)
Despite the continuous thoughts on the wallpaper, I’m assuming the wallpaper is her illness. The woman she sees behind the patterns is herself. The bars in the wallpaper symbolizes how she feels, trapped. She has a “loving and caring” husband who denies that it is anything more than a nervous condition. He is continuously stopping her from doing anything that she enjoys. She treats her as a child as well as calls her one. The more she examined the wallpaper the more she understood things in her own life. She was being held back from doing so many things just because her husband the physician said so.
In the end she says, “I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back.” (page 9, paragraph 30) She hasn’t gotten the woman out of the wallpaper out yet. Was she referring to herself this entire time? Her saying that she has gotten out at last was her admitting that she was trapped. Her husband and his sister and most likely everyone else around her made her feel trapped. No one acknowledged her thoughts or what she had to say as if she truly was a child. This is why she hid her writing from them and ultimately understood herself. She was depressed because of how she was being treated by others. The woman behind the wallpaper was her all along, she just needed to figure out who it really was. She needed to accept that the bars holding the woman in the wallpaper back from getting out was her life and maybe her husband too.