Two weeks have passed, and the narrator feels significantly worse. John is away most days, and she is alone in the ‘atrocious nursery.’ She is frustrated by her husband, who cannot understand how much she is suffering. We learn that she has a baby, who is being cared for by their nanny, Mary, since the narrator feels too nervous to be with her child.
The narrator’s child is a sign that this is a case of post-partum depression, which the author also experienced. It also represents the domestic role that she feels trapped within. John’s profession as a doctor heightens the irony of his inability to understand his wife’s suffering, and of the time period’s dismissal of mental illness in general.
The narrator has tried unsuccessfully to convince John to change the wallpaper, but he laughed at her silliness and refused to renovate the house for their short rental, calling her a ‘blessed little goose.’
The language used by John in responding to his wife’s request is condescending; he treats her like a silly child and she feels powerless.
From the barred windows of the nursery, the narrator can see the overgrown garden, the bay, and a shaded lane where she sometimes imagines she can see people walking. John warns her not to give into this ‘habit of story-making’, since a ‘nervous weakness’ like hers will create too much excitement from such things. The narrator wishes she could have visitors, or write a little, but John strongly advises against it.
The narrator’s tendency to endow inanimate things with a sort of inner life begins to emerge in her descriptions of the house and gardens. It is just this sort of imaginative habit that John warns his wife against as impractical, exerting his authority as her husband and doctor to stamp it out.
The narrator’s focus shifts to the wallpaper. She says it looks as though it ‘KNEW what a vicious influence it had.’ She sees a multitude of expressions and crawling eyes in the ‘impertinent’ wallpaper, and remembers how she used to lie awake as a child imagining the expressions of her furniture.
The narrator’s evolving relationship to the wallpaper mirrors her worsening mental condition. She expresses a belief in the inner life of outwardly inanimate things, like furniture.
The narrator describes the room again, but less kindly this time; it is ravaged, with gouged and splintered floors, large tears in the wallpaper, and a great heavy bed that was the only piece of furniture present when they moved in.
These new details continue to suggest to the reader that the room served a more mysterious and dark purpose in the past, and is not as it appears to the narrator.
From the window, the narrator sees John’s sister, Jennie, approaching the house. She describes her as a ‘perfect and enthusiastic housekeeper.’ The narrator’s attention then returns to the wallpaper, in which, when the light is just right, she can see a mysterious figure that ‘seems to skulk’ in a sub-pattern. Jennie’s approach on the stairs interrupts her musing, and she hides the diary.
Jennie’s easy acceptance of her domestic role only increases the guilt that the narrator feels with her own dissatisfaction with the domestic role into which she has been forced. The wallpaper’s ‘inner life’ begins to take a more definite form in the troubled brain of the narrator. She hides all of this from her sister-in law.