The Yellow Wallpaper
by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
The Yellow Wallpaper Theme of Madness
Due to the narrator’s confinement, she begins losing her sanity. Most importantly for this story, we see the narrator’s descent into madness through her eyes. Readers stay with the narrator as her mind grows more chaotic and as she begins seeing shapes in the wallpaper. This is the ultimate example of showing, not telling. We have to deduce from her frantic writing style that there isn’t actually a woman trapped in the wallpaper; the narrator just thinks there is because she’s losing her grip on reality.
Questions About Madness
- At what point in the story has the narrator truly descended into madness?
- When is the narrator considered mentally ill by her husband and incapable of making her own decisions? Does this intersect with your answer to the first question at all? How does being considered insane interact with actual point of madness in this story?
- Why does the narrator become mentally ill?
Chew on This
In "The Yellow Wallpaper," the narrator’s rich imagination might have found a productive and healthy outlet in her writing, but being forced to repress her imagination instead leads her to madness.