The Yellow Wallpaper | Study Guide

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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The Yellow Wallpaper | Section 6 | Summary



The next journal entry begins with an elaborate description of the yellow wallpaper, which the narrator has become even more fascinated with. She spends hours following the pattern, which she describes as "torturing." Now it "turns a back-somersault and there you are. It slaps you in the face, knocks you down, and tramples upon you." She has figured out that the outside pattern of the wallpaper becomes bars when it is seen in the moonlight.

She sees something about the wallpaper that the others do not notice: "it changes as the light changes." In sunlight it looks one way, but in the moonlight, the narrator can see the "sub-pattern" and the figure of the woman becomes "as plain as can be." John has begun forcing the narrator to lie down immediately after each meal, but she thinks this "is a very bad habit ... for you see I don't sleep. And that cultivates deceit, for I don't tell them I'm awake—O no!" Also, the narrator is beginning to fear her husband.

When the narrator surprises Jennie, alone in the nursery staring at the wallpaper, Jennie tells her to be careful because "she had found yellow smooches" on the narrator's and John's clothes. The narrator begins to feel suspicious of Jennie (and John), believing them to be studying the pattern of the wallpaper, too. The narrator is determined to be the one to figure out the meaning of the wallpaper pattern.


The language the narrator uses to describe the wallpaper has become more active, more violent, just as her situation is growing more desperate; the wallpaper becomes more alive to her. Her sense of confinement has increased, and to reflect her feelings she now sees prisonlike bars in the wallpaper. There is an outside pattern and a subpattern clearly distinguished in this section, as the story begins to reflect the thematic idea of women being subjected to men. The pattern she speaks of signifies the current relationship dynamics between men and women. Men are like the outer pattern—with their professional and political outward lifestyles—and women are the subpattern—with their domestic and in-home lifestyles. So, it is significant that, in this section, the narrator takes her husband's advice even though she feels it is bad advice, and this leads to deceit and fear.

Jennie reflects a more domestic type of woman, content with her status in society; her concern is the laundry and the stains from the wallpaper. On a literal level, as the story unfolds Jennie has found "yellow smooches" on the narrator's clothes, and readers must puzzle out why this might be.

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