The Yellow Wallpaper

The Mysterious Figure Symbol Analysis

The Mysterious Figure Symbol Icon
As the story progresses, the narrator begins to imagine that, in a certain light, a mysterious figure appears within the wallpaper. Eventually this figure takes on the form of a woman, and she seems to be trapped within the wallpaper. The narrator keeps this mysterious figure’s existence a secret from her husband, John, and in the story’s climax seeks to free her by destroying the wallpaper. The woman behind the wallpaper seems to represent the narrator’s own sense of confinement and being oppressed, and she eventually identifies herself entirely with this mysterious figure.

The Mysterious Figure Quotes in The Yellow Wallpaper

The The Yellow Wallpaper quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Mysterious Figure. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of The Yellow Wallpaper published in 2009.
Sixth Entry Quotes

At night in any kind of light, in twilight, candle light, lamplight, and worst of all by moonlight, it becomes bars! The outside pattern I mean, and the woman behind it is as plain as can be.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Wallpaper, The Mysterious Figure
Page Number: 175
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Eighth Entry Quotes

There is a very funny mark on this wall, low down, near the mopboard. A streak that runs round the room. It goes behind every piece of furniture, except the bed, a long, straight, even SMOOCH, as if it had been rubbed over and over. I wonder how it was done and who did it, and what they did it for. Round and round and round—round and round and round—it makes me dizzy!

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Wallpaper, The Mysterious Figure
Page Number: 178
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Ninth Entry Quotes

And she is all the time trying to climb through. But nobody could climb through that pattern—it strangles so; I think that is why it has so many heads.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Wallpaper, The Mysterious Figure
Page Number: 178
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Twelfth Entry Quotes

I suppose I shall have to get back behind the pattern when it comes night, and that is hard!
It is so pleasant to be out in this great room and creep around as I please! I don't want to go outside. I won't, even if Jennie asks me to.
For outside you have to creep on the ground, and everything is green instead of yellow.
But here I can creep smoothly on the floor, and my shoulder just fits in that long smooch around the wall, so I cannot lose my way.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Jennie
Related Symbols: The Wallpaper, The Mysterious Figure
Page Number: 181
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

"I've got out at last," said I, "in spite of you and Jane. And I've pulled off most of the paper, so you can't put me back!"
Now why should that man have fainted? But he did, and right across my path by the wall, so that I had to creep over him every time!

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), John, Jennie
Related Symbols: The Wallpaper, The Mysterious Figure
Page Number: 182
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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The Mysterious Figure Symbol Timeline in The Yellow Wallpaper

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Mysterious Figure appears in The Yellow Wallpaper. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Second Entry
Mental Illness and its Treatment Theme Icon
Gender Roles and Domestic Life Theme Icon
Outward Appearance vs. Inner Life Theme Icon
...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,... (full context)
Fourth 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
...Jennie, but she watches it more and more closely. She can make out the dim figure behind the pattern more clearly now: it is the repeated shape of a woman, stooping... (full context)
Fifth Entry
Mental Illness and its Treatment Theme Icon
Outward Appearance vs. Inner Life Theme Icon
...crept in the windows. She lay awake watching the light on the pattern, seeing the figure seem to move behind it, and then got up to feel if it had in... (full context)
Sixth Entry
Mental Illness and its Treatment Theme Icon
Gender Roles and Domestic Life Theme Icon
Outward Appearance vs. Inner Life Theme Icon
...as the light changes. At night, the pattern becomes bars, and she sees the mysterious figure of a woman behind them. The figure puzzles and intrigues her, as she lies in... (full context)
Ninth Entry
Mental Illness and its Treatment Theme Icon
Gender Roles and Domestic Life Theme Icon
Outward Appearance vs. Inner Life Theme Icon
The narrator has made a discovery: the front pattern does move, because the mysterious figure of the woman shakes it by crawling around fast and shaking the bars formed by... (full context)
Tenth Entry
Mental Illness and its Treatment Theme Icon
Outward Appearance vs. Inner Life Theme Icon
Self-Expression, Miscommunication, and Misunderstanding Theme Icon
The narrator confides in the reader that she has seen the mysterious woman escape the wallpaper during the day, creeping along on the shaded lane. The narrator knows... (full context)
Twelfth Entry
Mental Illness and its Treatment Theme Icon
Outward Appearance vs. Inner Life Theme Icon
Self-Expression, Miscommunication, and Misunderstanding Theme Icon
...overnight. As soon as the moon appears, she begins her attempt to free the mysterious figure, peeling yards of the wallpaper away in a strip around the room. When Jennie sees... (full context)
Mental Illness and its Treatment Theme Icon
Gender Roles and Domestic Life Theme Icon
Outward Appearance vs. Inner Life Theme Icon
Here, the perspective shifts. The narrator begins to speak as though she were the mysterious woman behind the wallpaper, just escaped. She can creep around in the room as much as... (full context)