The Yellow Wallpaper | Study Guide

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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The Yellow Wallpaper | Section 5 | Summary



In the creeping moonlight, the narrator believes the figure she sees in the yellow wallpaper shakes the outer pattern, as if it wants to get out. The narrator is tempted to feel the wallpaper to see if it has moved. When she returns to bed, her husband, John, is awake. He scolds her for being out of bed. She decides to talk to him about leaving the estate altogether, but he says no, arguing that their lease doesn't end for three more weeks and their own home is being repaired and is not yet ready. He tells her she is really "better, dear, whether you can see it or not. I am a doctor, dear, and I know." The narrator disagrees and tells him so: "I don't weigh a bit more ... and my appetite ... is worse in the morning when you are away!" "Bless her little heart!" John reacts, hugging the narrator and asking her to trust him. Then John goes back to sleep and the narrator lies there for hours, wondering if the front pattern and the back pattern move together or separately.


The narrator says that her husband is wise and loving, but John seems to belittle her and treat her like a child at every turn. He directly contradicts what she knows to be true—that she isn't gaining any weight and her appetite is poor. This reflects the structure of the section. The narrator begins by wondering if the wallpaper is moving, and it ends with her sense of reality weakened—knowing the wallpaper is moving. The whole section is a clash between her needs, desires, and perceptions, and her husband's, as John twists reality and the truth to instill the idea in her mind that she is improving.

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