The Yellow Wallpaper | Study Guide

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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The Yellow Wallpaper | Section 2 | Summary



Two weeks later, the narrator is sitting by the window writing in her journal, because John is away for the day. She describes how depressed she feels and how difficult it is for her to do even those small tasks left to her, such as getting dressed and entertaining. She reveals her anxiety about being with her newborn child. She recounts an interaction between herself and John in which she asked to take a room downstairs rather than the upstairs room with the terrible wallpaper. He did not give in to her wishes.

So she turns her attention to the view from the windows in her room. Out of one she can see a garden. Out of another she can see a bay and a wharf. She thinks that sometimes she can see people walking on the paths, but John believes this to be her imagination. He advises her to "check the tendency" to use her imagination in this way, and says that once she is well (but not before) she can have visitors. Her thoughts about being unwell lead her back to thoughts of the yellow wallpaper, which she blames for her continued feelings of depression. She describes the pattern's impertinence and how it looks like a series of unblinking eyes at the ends of broken necks. She has noticed a second pattern in the paper as well: "a strange, provoking, formless kind of figure, that seems to skulk about behind that silly and conspicuous front design." She also observes that the wallpaper is torn and the floor and walls are scratched.

As John's sister, who has come to help take care of the house, approaches, the narrator ends her journal entry.


This journal entry reveals an important part of the narrator's situation: She has recently had a child, and another woman, Mary, has been hired to take care of the child. She says she is very nervous about being with her child: "It is fortunate Mary is so good with the baby. Such a dear baby! And yet I cannot be with him, it makes me so nervous." Many readers have made the connection between this piece of information and a common symptom of postpartum depression—heightened anxiety.

After John dismisses her worries about the room, she begins to describe her external surroundings. This mirrors what happens in the first journal entry when John tells her not to think about her condition, and so she describes the grounds of the estate. This is important for two reasons: one is that she clearly wants to please John and does not want him to think badly of her. Unfortunately, because he doesn't believe in the seriousness of her condition, this means she has to suppress that part of her that is truly worried about her illness. Another is that, in turning her internal gaze outward, she projects her inward turmoil onto her environment. As the story goes on, this tendency becomes more pronounced—and ultimately destructive.

She also notes that she is very imaginative and likes to make up stories. John thinks these tendencies are adding to her problem, but she sees them as an outlet: "I think sometimes that if I were only well enough to write a little it would relieve the press of ideas and rest me." She gives an example of the positive power of imagination as she describes her childhood furniture: "I remember what a kindly wink the knobs of our big, old bureau used to have, and there was one chair that always seemed like a strong friend."

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