The narrator and her husband John are renting a beautiful, secluded estate for the summer. The narrator suffers from what her husband believes is a "temporary nervous depression." He orders her to rest as much as possible, and picks a room in the house for the two of them. The narrator feels vaguely uncomfortable with the estate, but obeys her husband’s decision for the two of them to stay there. She also obeys him when he chooses a large, airy room on the top floor instead of the smaller, prettier room on the ground floor that she prefers. Since her husband is a doctor, he wins all their arguments. The narrator would like to spend her time writing, but her husband, brother, and assorted other family members think this is a terrible idea.
Let’s recap: the narrator is living in a house in which she feels uncomfortable, in a room she hasn’t picked out, and is forbidden from engaging in the one activity she enjoys. No wonder she becomes absolutely obsessed with the yellow wallpaper in her room. She begins fanatically tracing the pattern of the wallpaper and soon becomes convinced that there is a woman trapped within the paper. Shortly before the narrator is due to depart the house, she decides that she must free the trapped woman by stripping the wallpaper off. When her husband comes into the room, the narrator declares that she is now free. Upon seeing his wife creeping around the room peeling the paper off the walls, John faints. The narrator continues creeping around the room.