The narrator and her husband John move into an old ancestral hall for the summer.
She immediately feels that there is something wrong with the place, but John scoffs at her fears, which seems to be a recurring theme in their marriage. John uses the old, "trust me, I’m a doctor" line to convince his wife and all their relatives that the narrator needs to rest in order to get rid of her slight depression.
The narrator thinks that writing and hanging out with friends would be a better cure, but Mr. "trust me, I’m a doctor" wins the day. The narrator occasionally sneaks around and writes, but it’s hard when her husband and family oppose it.
The narrator transitions to describing the estate as one of those "English places that you read about."
The narrator continues feeling spooked out by the place, and John again dismisses her fears. She wants to sleep in a different, prettier room, but her husband disagrees. He recommends a large room at the top of the house that used to be a nursery.
John controls her daily schedule and prescribes lots and lots of rest. The narrator hates the wallpaper in the room, which is stripped off in various places.
Even though she hates the wallpaper, the narrator is also strangely fascinated by it.
She tells us that John is approaching and that she must hide the paper she is writing on.