The Yellow Wallpaper

The Wallpaper Symbol Analysis

The Wallpaper Symbol Icon
The yellow wallpaper of the ‘nursery’ gives this story its title, and becomes an obsession of the narrator, who begins to view it as a living entity. Its significance shifts as the story progresses, but it is most importantly a symbol of the narrator’s worsening mental state. It is partly a puzzle that confounds interpretation, a challenge to be overcome, and partly a malevolent, all-pervasive force that keeps her from resting soundly. Since the narrator is unable to convince her husband, John, to change the wallpaper, it also represents her impotence in the household and his dismissal of her concerns.

The Wallpaper Quotes in The Yellow Wallpaper

The The Yellow Wallpaper quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Wallpaper. 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

The paint and paper look as if a boys' school had used it. It is stripped off—the paper—in great patches all around the head of my bed, about as far as I can reach, and in a great place on the other side of the room low down. I never saw a worse paper in my life.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Wallpaper
Page Number: 168
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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Third Entry Quotes

But, on the other hand, they connect diagonally, and the sprawling outlines run off in great slanting waves of optic horror, like a lot of wallowing seaweeds in full chase.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Wallpaper
Page Number: 172
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.

Of course I never mention it to them any more—I am too wise,—but I keep watch of it all the same.
There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me, or ever will ...

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Wallpaper
Page Number: 174
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 pro

Sixth Entry Quotes

On a pattern like this, by daylight, there is a lack of sequence, a defiance of law, that is a constant irritant to a normal mind… You think you have mastered it, but just as you get well underway in following, it turns a back-somersault and there you are. It slaps you in the face, knocks you down, and tramples upon you. It is like a bad dream.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Wallpaper
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.

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.

Eighth Entry Quotes

It used to disturb me at first. I thought seriously of burning the house—to reach the smell. But now I am used to it. The only thing I can think of that it is like is the COLOR of the paper! A yellow smell.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Wallpaper
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.

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

Then I peeled off all the paper I could reach standing on the floor. It sticks horribly and the pattern just enjoys it! All those strangled heads and bulbous eyes and waddling fungus growths just shriek with derision!

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Wallpaper
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 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.

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 e

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The Wallpaper Symbol Timeline in The Yellow Wallpaper

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Wallpaper 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
Outward Appearance vs. Inner Life Theme Icon
Self-Expression, Miscommunication, and Misunderstanding Theme Icon
...on the window to prevent children from falling. She objects only to the room’s yellow wallpaper, which she finds irritating, repellent, and full of contradictions and outrageous angles. (full context)
Second Entry
Gender Roles and Domestic Life Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Mental Illness and its Treatment Theme Icon
Outward Appearance vs. Inner Life Theme Icon
The narrator’s focus shifts to the wallpaper. She says it looks as though it ‘KNEW what a vicious influence it had.’ She... (full context)
Outward Appearance vs. Inner Life Theme Icon
Self-Expression, Miscommunication, and Misunderstanding Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Mental Illness and its Treatment Theme Icon
Gender Roles and Domestic Life Theme Icon
Outward Appearance vs. Inner Life Theme Icon
...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... (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
...away, the narrator walks in the garden or lies in her room, staring at the wallpaper. She feels determined to find some sort of rhyme or reason behind its ‘pointless pattern.’... (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
...living in the nursery: it means that her baby is not exposed to the horrible wallpaper, and can be happy and well. She has stopped mentioning the wallpaper to her husband... (full context)
Fifth Entry
Outward Appearance vs. Inner Life Theme Icon
Self-Expression, Miscommunication, and Misunderstanding Theme Icon
...argument is over, the narrator lay awake for hours staring at the pattern in the wallpaper. (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
The narrator dwells on the irritating lack of regularity in the wallpaper, which defies her ‘like a bad dream,’ resembling a fungus. She explains the wallpaper’s secret:... (full context)
Mental Illness and its Treatment Theme Icon
Self-Expression, Miscommunication, and Misunderstanding Theme Icon
...narrator is beginning to distrust both John and Jennie, and suspects that it is the wallpaper’s fault. The narrator once caught Jennie with her hand on the wall, and she believes... (full context)
Seventh Entry
Mental Illness and its Treatment Theme Icon
Outward Appearance vs. Inner Life Theme Icon
Self-Expression, Miscommunication, and Misunderstanding Theme Icon
...is feeling an improvement in her mood. She says the change is due to the wallpaper, although John doesn’t know that and she ‘has no intention of telling him.’ She is... (full context)
Eighth Entry
Mental Illness and its Treatment Theme Icon
Outward Appearance vs. Inner Life Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Mental Illness and its Treatment Theme Icon
Self-Expression, Miscommunication, and Misunderstanding Theme Icon
...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... (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 it is the... (full context)
Eleventh Entry
Mental Illness and its Treatment Theme Icon
Outward Appearance vs. Inner Life Theme Icon
Self-Expression, Miscommunication, and Misunderstanding Theme Icon
The narrator is determined to remove the top pattern of the wallpaper from the one she sees underneath. She has discovered something that she won’t tell the... (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
...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 it the next morning, the... (full context)
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
...bites at one corner in frustration. She tears off whatever she can reach, and the wallpaper seems to shriek with laughter at her attempts. She writes that she is angry enough... (full context)
Mental Illness and its Treatment Theme Icon
Gender Roles and Domestic Life Theme Icon
Outward Appearance vs. Inner Life Theme Icon
...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 she pleases, and... (full context)