Summary of the Yellow Wallpaper
In The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a woman is persuaded by her husband, John, to take the rest cure from an ambiguous nervous breakdown (possibly linked to post-partum depression). The house they go to is old, broken-down, and, our unnamed narrator and main character thinks, quite possibly haunted—at least if she’s being fanciful.
But she’s not supposed to be fanciful; that’s what John says. Nor is she supposed to visit other people, or to write—though writing is our narrator’s work and what she is most passionate about. Still, she writes in secret, and the journal entries she creates are the story we see unfold, as our narrator, stuck inside most of the time in a room with hideous yellow wallpaper, begins to wonder if there’s something more sinister to her situation than it seems at first.
Because, you see, our narrator begins to notice something odd in the wallpaper. Shapes that move and resolve into a woman… a woman behind bars!
Becoming ever more certain that the wallpaper has some insidious influence on her husband and her husband’s sister (Jennie), as well as herself, our narrator finally resolves to tear down the paper and lock herself inside her room just as they are about to move out of the abandoned house. Succumbing to what seems like madness, our narrator finally finds a measure of agency, forcing John to listen to her, as he never has throughout the story, no matter how rationally she has tried to state her case. In the end, upon opening the door and seeing her tied to the window and creeping endlessly around the room, John faints, and our narrator continues creeping, triumphant—though she still has to creep over him every time she goes around.
Summary by Sara Barkat.
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