Study Guide

The Yellow Wallpaper Summary

By Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The Yellow Wallpaper Summary

We have some good news and we have some bad news when it comes to the narrator of "The Yellow Wallpaper."

The good news? The narrator, along with her husband John, are renting a beautiful, secluded estate for the summer.

The bad news? Pretty much every other aspect of this story.

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.

Let's just go ahead and say that she pretty much obeys her husband when it comes to everything.

Since the hubby 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: she's on a rest cure, which means resting instead of doing pretty much anything else. She basically just has to lie around and...rest. Most likely, if this story was set today, she wouldn't even be allowed to binge Netflix.

So a quick recap: The narrator is living in a house in which she feels uncomfortable, in a room she hasn’t picked out, and she's forbidden from engaging in the one activity she enjoys. No wonder she becomes absolutely obsessed with the yellow wallpaper in her room—she's bored out of her mind.

Literally, as it turns out.

She begins fanatically tracing the pattern of the wallpaper and soon becomes convinced that there's a woman trapped within the paper. Shortly before the narrator is due to depart the house, she decides that she has to 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 pays no attention to the unconscious hubby, and continues creeping around the room.