Imagery in "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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About this sample


Words: 575 |

Page: 1|

3 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Words: 575|Page: 1|3 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Charlotte Perkins Gilman's short story "The Yellow Wallpaper" is a haunting tale that explores the theme of women's oppression in the late 19th century. Through the use of vivid and powerful imagery, Gilman effectively portrays the protagonist's descent into madness and highlights the detrimental effects of societal expectations on women's mental health. This essay will analyze the various instances of imagery in the story and discuss their significance in conveying the central message of the text.

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The most prominent and recurring image in the story is, of course, the yellow wallpaper itself. The narrator describes it as an "unclean yellow" with "repellant, almost revolting" patterns that seem to "commit every artistic sin." This description creates a sense of unease and discomfort, foreshadowing the unsettling events that unfold later in the narrative. The wallpaper serves as a metaphor for the restrictive and oppressive societal norms that confine women during this time period. Just as the narrator is trapped in her room with the wallpaper surrounding her, women were trapped within rigid gender roles, unable to escape or express themselves freely.

The room itself serves as another important image in the story. Described as a former nursery, the room is described as "big and airy" with "windows that look all ways." However, as the story progresses, the room's true nature is revealed. The windows are barred, and the room becomes a prison for the narrator. The confinement of the room mirrors the confinement of women in society, as they were expected to adhere to strict domestic roles and were often denied opportunities for personal and intellectual growth. The room's oppressive atmosphere contributes to the deterioration of the narrator's mental state.

The patterns on the wallpaper play a crucial role in the story's imagery. At first, the narrator finds the patterns confusing and frustrating, unable to make sense of them. However, as she spends more time in the room, she begins to discern a woman trapped behind the pattern. This woman becomes a symbol of the narrator's own entrapment and repression. The patterns also take on a life of their own, seemingly moving and changing in the moonlight. This shifting and restless imagery reflects the narrator's own mental instability and her struggle to maintain a sense of reality.

The woman behind the wallpaper is perhaps the most chilling image in the story. As the narrator becomes increasingly obsessed with the wallpaper, she begins to see the woman creeping and crawling behind it. This image represents the narrator's own suppressed desires and ambitions that have been hidden away by societal expectations. The woman's desperate attempts to escape mirror the narrator's own longing for freedom and self-expression. The image of the woman behind the wallpaper is a potent symbol of the destructive consequences of denying women agency and autonomy.


In "The Yellow Wallpaper," Charlotte Perkins Gilman utilizes imagery to convey the oppressive nature of societal expectations on women's mental health. Through the yellow wallpaper, the room, the patterns, and the woman behind the wallpaper, Gilman paints a vivid picture of the narrator's descent into madness and explores the damaging effects of patriarchal norms on women. By analyzing these images, readers gain a deeper understanding of the story's central themes and the importance of challenging oppressive systems. "The Yellow Wallpaper" serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of women's autonomy and the detrimental consequences of denying them agency.

Works Cited

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Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. "The Yellow Wallpaper." The New England Magazine, vol. 5, no. 3, 1892, pp. 647-656.

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Imagery in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. (2024, Jun 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 22, 2024, from
“Imagery in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.” GradesFixer, 14 Jun. 2024,
Imagery in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 22 Jul. 2024].
Imagery in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jun 14 [cited 2024 Jul 22]. Available from:
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