The Yellow Wallpaper | Study Guide

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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The Yellow Wallpaper | Quotes


John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage.

Narrator, Section 1

The narrator's expectations of marriage reveal how commonplace it is for her husband to belittle her.


If a physician of high standing, and one's own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression—a slight hysterical tendency—what is one to do?

Narrator, Section 1

The narrator explains why she is helpless to make the changes she needs to get better. Her husband does not take her seriously, and because he is respected as both a doctor and a male, while she is not, his opinion is considered more reliable.


It is dull enough to confuse the eye in following, pronounced enough to constantly irritate and provoke study, and when you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide—plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions.

Narrator, Section 1

One of the narrator's first descriptions of the wallpaper's pattern shows that it already reflects her internal state: uncertain, self-destructive, contradictory.


It does weigh on me so not to do my duty in any way!

Narrator, Section 2

The narrator refers to the fact that she has no tasks to do—not even the normal "woman's work" of mothering and keeping house. She is weighed down not by duties, but by lack of them.


I think sometimes that if I were only well enough to write a little it would relieve the press of ideas and rest me.

Narrator, Section 2

John has given instructions that she is not to tell stories or use her imagination because it might lead to a worse mental condition. However, the narrator seems to think that writing her ideas down on paper might make her feel better.


There is a recurrent spot where the pattern lolls like a broken neck and two bulbous eyes stare at you upside down. I get positively angry with the impertinence of it and the everlastingness.

Narrator, Section 2

The narrator's description of the pattern as looking like a broken neck is ominous and reflects the growing intensity of her mental decline. She also begins to attribute human motivations to the wallpaper, referring to its "impertinence."


I cry at nothing, and cry most of the time. Of course I don't when John is here, or anybody else, but when I am alone. And I am alone a good deal just now.

Narrator, Section 3

As the narrator's isolation continues for weeks, she becomes more and more emotionally fragile. Yet she doesn't show this to the others yet—she's become secretive, concealing her real self.


The faint figure behind seemed to shake the pattern, just as if she wanted to get out.

Narrator, Section 5

The narrator begins to believe that a woman is trapped inside the wallpaper's pattern, as if the pattern were bars of a prison.


"What is it, little girl?" he said. "Don't go walking about like that—you'll get cold."

John, Section 5

John, the narrator's husband, refers to her as if she were a child who must be taken care of rather than a grown woman, using the word little to describe her several times in the story.


By daylight she is subdued, quiet. I fancy it is the pattern that keeps her so still. It is so puzzling. It keeps me quiet by the hour.

Narrator, Section 6

The pattern of the wallpaper confines and subdues the imaginary woman just as the narrator is subdued and confined by its pattern. The imaginary woman seems to externally manifest the narrator's internal state.


I pulled and she shook, I shook and she pulled, and before morning we had peeled off yards of that paper.

Narrator, Section 12

At the end of the story, the narrator has come to believe that the woman in the wallpaper is just as real as she is. In a way they work together, because they are both looking for a way out. In some ways, they have become the same person in her mind.

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