The Yellow Wallpaper


Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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The Yellow Wallpaper: Eighth Entry Summary & Analysis

The narrator claims to be feeling better. She sleeps during the day, and stays up at night watching for ‘developments’ in the wallpaper. Its foulness continues to disturb her, its color and also now its smell. It seems to be creeping all over the house, ‘hovering in the dining-room, skulking in the parlor, etc.’ She smells it even while out riding, if she turns her head suddenly to ‘surprise it.’
The narrator’s illness is invading the home, embodied by the inescapable odor of the wallpaper. The verbs used to describe the wallpaper’s actions—“hovering,” “skulking,” etc.—are a prime example of the theme of outward appearance vs. inner life as it relates to inanimate objects.
Mental Illness and its Treatment Theme Icon
Outward Appearance vs. Inner Life Theme Icon
The narrator admits to considering burning the house down to escape the smell, but she has grown used to it; it is ‘a yellow smell.’ She has also noticed a long, straight even streak in the wallpaper that runs all the way around the room, ‘as if it had been rubbed over and over,’ and wonders who did it.
The narrator’s casually expressed plan to burn the house shows the extent of her illness, and the reader feels powerless to intervene (much as the narrator feels powerless to make herself understood). The streak in the wallpaper foreshadows the narrator’s breakdown, and again suggests that others have suffered similar breakdowns in this room, which both adds to the general gothic horror of the story and suggests that the narrator’s situation as a confined woman forced into the “rest cure” is not unique in her society.
Mental Illness and its Treatment Theme Icon
Self-Expression, Miscommunication, and Misunderstanding Theme Icon
Literary Devices