Freedom vs Confinement in The Yellow Wallpaper

When one first looks at the surface of the short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” one may think that this literature is dull, simplistic, and slow paced. With a title such as “The Yellow Wallpaper,” one imagines paint drying with no climax, 0n the contrary, Charlotte Perkins Gilman depicts a cautionary tale of a woman descending into madness. A recurring theme of this stimulating story is freedom and confinement. The author proves this theme through literary devices such as imagery, symbolism, and irony.

Although the story follows the patterns of a woman going insane, the story is not told in chronological order, so one must assume the occurrence of the events. The story starts out with the main character being confined and towards the end of the writing she is set free Freedom is defined as the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraintt.

In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” freedom is not achieved until the end of the story when the main character states “I’ve got out at last” (656), In order to get to this point, she has to go through a tremendous amount of restraint.

The female’s husband, John, is a physician and he has diagnosed his wife with “temporary nervous depression with slight hysterical tendencies” (648). During the era in which this story took place, little to no treatment was discovered to help with the main character’s mental status. The closest thing to medicine that John could find was the prescription the “resting cure.

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” This cure consisted of the female being bed ridden with no social contact and no physical or mental stimulation. As soon as the couplezx moved into this new house, the female’s confinement has started. She is locked into a room that used to be a child‘s nursery, Vivid detail of her new living environment is described through the females journal entries which she is not allowed to write because it goes against John’s orders.

She states that the “windows are barred for little children” (648). The imagery of barred windows foreshadows her jail—like conditions in her new home. As herjournal entries continue, she describes the “artistic sin” (648) of the wallpaper that she is so fixated on. She begins to imagine a woman in the wallpaper who is trapped. The wallpaper itself is such an important symbol that the story is named after it, The irony of this situation is that the woman she sees represents her own confinement and how she wants to escape. Confinement can rarely be defined as the condition of being in childbirth, and more commonly related to the the state of being confined In order to help the woman, who I think is a representation of herself, escape from her confinement, she must come up with a plan. Her plan includes scraping off all the wallpaper so the woman can escape. The main character does not want any other people to take down the wallpaper besides herself.

She starts to have a connection with the paper because, in her seclusion, the wallpaper is the only thing that keeps life interesting. She is not allowed to interact with anyone, including “her cousins Henry and Julia,“ (649) and the more she views the wallpaper pattern, the more the woman in the wall becomes her source of comfort. The imagery of the main character helping the woman proves the theme of freedom when she says “I ran to help her“ (655) and “she is trying to climb through“ (655). The main character’s state of mind is depicted when she believes that the “woman gets out in the daytime” (654), I believe this is referring to herself. The narrator has gotten into the bad habit of sleeping all day and staying awake all night staring at the wallpaper. The symbol of daytime and night become parallel with the main character’s emotions because both her sleeping habits and her mental state have been flipped upside down.

Towards the end of the story, the woman is finally set free when she peels off the wallpaper, scares John enough to make him pass out with the door open, and “creeps over him” (656). The irony of her entire situation is that she had to go insane in to be freed from her confinement. Through literary devices such as imagery, symbolism, and irony, one can conclude that the theme of “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is freedom and confinement. This can be seen through the journey of a woman who is on the brink of insanity. In order to free herself from her husband‘s prescription, she must first set free a woman she is seeing in the wallpaper of the room she is locked away in, Through many trials, the main character accomplishes her goal of being set free, The question that seems to haunt readers of this story, is if the main character begins herjourney restricted and psychotic, or does this not happen until the end?

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Freedom vs Confinement in The Yellow Wallpaper. (2022, Nov 10). Retrieved from

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