The Yellow Wallpaper

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The Diary Symbol Icon
The story is told through a series of secret entries in the diary of the narrator, who has been forbidden from writing. As a form of written expression, the diary represents the life of the mind that the narrator has been forced to give up during her “rest cure,: and gives the reader a privileged view of her inner life. The diary is also a symbol of the narrator’s rebellion against John.

The Diary Quotes in The Yellow Wallpaper

The The Yellow Wallpaper quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Diary. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Mental Illness and its Treatment  Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin edition of The Yellow Wallpaper published in 2009.
First Entry Quotes

John is a physician, and PERHAPS—(I would not say it to a living soul, of course, but this is dead paper and a great relief to my mind)—PERHAPS that is one reason I do not get well faster.
You see he does not believe I am sick!
And what can one do?

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), John
Related Symbols: The Diary
Page Number: 166
Explanation and Analysis:

These lines are the first clue that the narrator is sick in some way, and signal that what we are reading is a secret diary. There is a dark humor in the suggestion that the reason the narrator remains sick is that her husband is a doctor. This is a bitter joke criticizing doctors, and particularly male doctors who misunderstand (or condescendingly refuse to trust or believe) their female patients. Here, again, John is shown as being incapable of taking his wife’s mental illness seriously, believing her sickness to be the result of her "fancy" and fragility as a woman and not an actual illness. The narrator’s helplessness in the face of her doctor-husband’s judgment reveals how little agency women had over their own lives at the time, and suggests that this lack of control is in fact what is causing her sickness (in part, at least). This jab at doctors also begins Gilman’s attack on her own, real-life doctor, Dr. Weir Mitchell, who prescribed to Gilman a "rest cure" similar to the forced idleness enforced upon the narrator in this short story. 

The fact that the story in our hands is a secret diary also creates a close relationship between reader and narrator, since we are privileged to see critical parts of her thinking that other characters in the story cannot. In one sense, then, the distinction between “living souls” and “dead paper” is a false one, since we, as readers, are essentially a living audience for the narrator—we are "living souls" who are hearing what she has to say through the "dead paper" upon which she writes. The use of the phrase "dead paper," which in fact might be described as a kind of living connection between the narrator and the reader, also foreshadows the yellow wallpaper of her room—more "dead paper" that seems to become inhabited with a mysterious "living soul."


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Second Entry Quotes

There comes John's sister. Such a dear girl as she is, and so careful of me! I must not let her find me writing. She is a perfect and enthusiastic housekeeper, and hopes for no better profession. I verily believe she thinks it is the writing which made me sick!

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), John, Jennie
Related Symbols: The Diary
Page Number: 171
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote is the reader's first introduction to John's sister, Jennie, who is helping to run the house while the narrator is sick in bed. The narrator hides the diary at the sound of her approach, underlining the conspiratorial, secretive nature of this writing, and reinforcing the idea that her writing is an act of rebellion against her husband's expectation that she rest in complete idleness, giving up on any idea of more ambitious work. Writing, the narrator's secret ambition, is not fit work for a woman—according to societal expectations of the time. Meanwhile, Jennie's willing and even enthusiastic acceptance of the traditionally female domestic role in the home gives the narrator still more reason to feel guilty at her own rebellious instincts and depression. She is isolated even from another woman in her ambition and her mental illness, and has begun to hide her true self from the rest of the house. 

Eleventh Entry Quotes

I have found out another funny thing, but I shan't tell it this time! It does not do to trust people too much.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Diary
Page Number: 179
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, the narrator turns completely inward, rejecting even the previously comforting audience of her diary as untrustworthy. Her paranoia has mounted to the point that she is even suspicious of her own writing, which had been the only outlet for her inner turmoil. This "funny thing" that the narrator has found out creates a mystery for the reader, and a frightening one, given the narrator's deteriorating mental state—it seems likely that she will come to some harm without any means of escaping the downward spiral she has entered into. 

This secret half-confession underlines how completely the narrator has transformed over the course of her isolation in the room. She has learned to trust no one, and partly with good cause—since the person she ought to be able to trust most, her husband John, is a major cause of her current harmful state of imprisonment, essentially acting as her jailer. While in the beginning of the story the narrator seemed to make every effort to interpret John's actions kindly and to think the best of the people around her, she has now become so paranoid that everyone in her life is a potential enemy.

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The Diary Symbol Timeline in The Yellow Wallpaper

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Diary appears in The Yellow Wallpaper. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
First Entry
Mental Illness and its Treatment  Theme Icon
Gender Roles and Domestic Life Theme Icon
Outward Appearance vs. Inner Life Theme Icon
Self-Expression, Miscommunication, and Misunderstanding Theme Icon
As John approaches, the narrator hides the diary where she is writing this note. (full context)
Second Entry
Mental Illness and its Treatment  Theme Icon
Gender Roles and Domestic Life Theme Icon
Outward Appearance vs. Inner Life Theme Icon a sub-pattern. Jennie’s approach on the stairs interrupts her musing, and she hides the diary. (full context)
Third Entry
Mental Illness and its Treatment  Theme Icon
Outward Appearance vs. Inner Life Theme Icon
Self-Expression, Miscommunication, and Misunderstanding Theme Icon
...lies in bed watching it. Following its ‘interminable grotesques’ tires her, so she ends her diary entry to take a nap. (full context)