The Yellow Wallpaper

The Yellow Wallpaper

Part One: Summary

The anonymous female narrator and her physician husband, John, have rented out a colonial mansion for the summer in which she can recuperate from her sickness. However, on her first day she finds "something queer" about the house, and John, a practical man, does not believe she is sick, but only that she has a temporary nervous depression. She takes medicine, but is not allowed to work at all while she rests; she believes work would speed her recovery, though. She has been writing some, but it is exhausting having to do so in secrecy. She would like to have more company and stimulation, but John tells her not to think about her condition, as it will only aggravate her symptoms.

She discusses the house and its beautiful surroundings. The house is solitary, has hedges and walls and gates, smaller houses for gardeners and other workers, and a garden. Still, she feels there is something strange about the house, though John does not heed her. She finds herself getting angrier with John now, and he tells her to exercise self-control. She does not like the room she is in, but wanted one downstairs that was more open and nicely decorated. John felt this room was a more practical choice, as it can fit two beds.

John is very attentive to her and has outlined a detailed everyday schedule for her. Air is the most important thing for her, he feels, so they took the nursery room (as indicated by the bars on the windows for children). A big room, it has windows on all sides and allows plenty of sunshine. However, the wallpaper in the room‹stripped off in two places‹has a hideous, chaotic, yellow pattern. John enters the room and she puts away her journal, as he hates for her to write.

Analysis In 1887, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, suffering for three years from neurasthenia‹an emotional disorder characterized by fatigue and depression‹went to see noted physician Silas Weir Mitchell. Mitchell prescribed the "rest cure" evident in the...

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