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The narrator and John arrive at an “ancestral home.”
John selects the large attic room for them to sleep in, which is papered with a really ugly yellow pattern the narrator hates.
The narrator isn’t allowed to write, do housework, or help with her baby.
She begs John to be allowed to move elsewhere or to change rooms, because the inactivity is making her nervous and unhappy. John says no.
Some people come to visit for the Fourth of July, leaving the narrator exhausted and fretful.
She begins obsessively to try to follow the pattern of the wallpaper, to find some sort of logic or secret that would make it make sense.
The narrator’s fascination with the wallpaper mounts as she identifies a woman in the pattern, creeping behind the bars of the paper’s design.
The narrator asks John again to be allowed to visit his cousins or to move, and he again refuses, claiming that she’s putting on weight and getting better.
She begins to suspect that John and Jennie are also hiding secret obsessions with the wallpaper, and she resolves to figure it out first.
The narrator’s mood improves as she finds more and more sympathy for the woman trapped in the paper, particularly when she starts to see the creeping woman elsewhere in the house and outside (during the daylight).
The narrator and John are on the verge of departing their summer home when the narrator locks herself in the attic and throws away the key.
She seizes the opportunity to tear down huge chunks of the yellow wallpaper.
In doing this, the narrator begins to assume the persona of the creeping woman.
John, finally realizing how serious his wife’s mental condition really is, breaks down the door. He sees her crawling on the floor, following the pattern of the paper, and faints.
The creeping woman/narrator gets a little annoyed with John, since his unconscious body is blocking her view of the paper, and she has to crawl over him as she creeps around the room.