How the narrator in “The Yellow Wallpaper’s” description of the setting is linked to her emotional state


The first line of the poem, ‘The Yellow Wall Paper’ introduces both settings of the story and the narrator. From this introductory line, we know that the narrator is a woman because she is married to a man named John and is from the upper-middle class category (Gilman 3). The narrator does not say her name anyway. That the narrator chooses to give a general name to her husband (John), doesn’t say her name and specifies that she is married is important to understanding the background of the poem. We can only conclude that the reason for doing this is to give her the opportunity to express her emotions concerning the various themes covered in the story.

From the onset, therefore, it is important that the events described in the first line are crucial to understanding the events unfolding in the poem. Also, that the story is told from first person narrative form allows her to focus on her inner thoughts, feelings and perceptions about the situations under which she is subjected by the society (Al-Joulan 67). In fact, everything that the narrator feeds to the consumers is derived from her consciousness. That the whole poem is set in single room of the big house foreshadows the narrator’s social imprisonment and how this affects her psychologically.

The major conflict in the story, the narrator’s struggle with her husband (also her doctor) depicts an inner conflict occurring in her mind as a result of the realization of her powerlessness and the struggles to repress this awareness (Hume 12). This scenario is typical of the 19th century American society in which women’s voices were submerged by the male dominance of the patriarchal society.  For instance, the teeth marks discovered on the bedside foreshadows the narrator’s escalating desperation as a result of her desperation.

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  1. Al-Joulan, Nayef Ali. Gynoconstruction: Feminist Literacy Criticism: Theory and Practice. Dar Al Juhaina, 2007.
  2. Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The yellow wallpaper. Project Gutenberg, 1994.
  3. Hume, Beverly A. “Managing Madness in Gilman’s” The Yellow Wall-Paper”.” Studies in American Fiction 30.1 (2002): 3-20.
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