The Yellow Wallpaper | Study Guide

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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The Yellow Wallpaper | Section 12 | Summary



The narrator feels certain that she can complete her task, although it is the last day in the house. Working by moonlight and with the "help" of the woman behind the pattern, the narrator has removed large areas of the wallpaper. She locks the door and throws the key out the window, then begins peeling. She thinks that there are many women who come out from behind the wallpaper pattern, and that she is actually one of them. She begins to creep around the wall of the room, with her shoulder rubbing into the long yellow streak she had noticed earlier in the wallpaper.

John arrives, and, finding the door locked, pounds on it. She tells him that the key is under a plant outside, and he is able to open the door. "It is so pleasant to be out in this great room and creep around as I please!" she tells John. "I've got out at last," she says, "in spite of you and Jane? ... And I've pulled off most of the paper, so you can't put me back!" He sees her creeping along and faints across her path, but she continues to creep.


The final journal entry reveals the complete disintegration of the narrator's identity. She is so invested in peeling off the paper, she seems violent toward anyone else who touches it: "no person touches this paper but me,—not alive!" She says that she is tempted to jump out the window but can't because of the bars. She notes that the "bedstead is fairly gnawed," then reveals that she is the one gnawing it: "I got so angry I bit off a little piece at one corner—but it hurt my teeth." These are violent images that point to a level of madness and agitation she hasn't shown to John, or the reader, at all.

As she finally descends into madness, she seems to merge her identity with that of the woman in the wallpaper. She doesn't want to go outside because she's come to identify so much with the wallpaper. She treats the nursery as if she has escaped out of the wallpaper and arrived to enjoy the large expanse of the room for the first time.

Some readers believe that the phrase "in spite of you and Jane" is a cryptic revelation of the narrator's real name. If so, it shows that she has completely left behind her old identity. Some scholars believe that Jane is an error, meant to be Jennie, and that the narrator is actually referring to her sister-in-law. Either way, the ending has the same connotation because Jennie represents the type of woman who embraces the status quo.

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