Imagery in "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 682 |

Page: 1|

4 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Words: 682|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Confinement and Oppression
  2. The Subversion of Gender Roles
  3. Conclusion

Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" is a captivating piece of literature that delves into the complexities of a woman's descent into madness. Through the masterful use of imagery, Gilman creates a vivid and haunting portrayal of the protagonist's mental deterioration. This essay will explore the various instances of imagery in "The Yellow Wallpaper" and analyze their significance in conveying the central themes of confinement, oppression, and the subversion of traditional gender roles.

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Confinement and Oppression

One of the most prominent forms of imagery in "The Yellow Wallpaper" is the depiction of confinement. From the very beginning of the story, the narrator describes the room she is confined to as having "bars on the windows" and a "gate at the head of the stairs." These physical barriers symbolize the oppressive nature of the patriarchal society in which the protagonist is trapped. The wallpaper itself becomes a powerful symbol of her confinement, as it represents the societal and domestic expectations that confine and suppress her.

The vivid descriptions of the wallpaper further enhance the sense of confinement. The narrator describes it as "dull," "faded," and "repellent." These adjectives not only reflect her initial perception of the wallpaper but also serve as metaphors for her own state of mind. The repetitive pattern of the wallpaper, which the narrator likens to a "smoldering unclean yellow," mirrors her own repetitive and monotonous existence.

Furthermore, Gilman employs sensory imagery to emphasize the oppressive atmosphere in the story. The narrator describes the smell of the wallpaper as "sickly, yellow smell," which adds to the overall sense of discomfort and confinement. The use of olfactory imagery allows the reader to experience the same oppressive environment as the narrator, thereby heightening the emotional impact of the story.

The Subversion of Gender Roles

In addition to exploring the theme of confinement, "The Yellow Wallpaper" also subverts traditional gender roles through imagery. The protagonist's husband, John, is portrayed as the epitome of male dominance and authority. He is a physician who believes he knows what is best for his wife and dismisses her concerns as mere hysteria. The imagery associated with John reinforces his position of power and control.

The narrator describes John as having "blue eyes" that are "very bright," which symbolize his cold and detached nature. His physical appearance is contrasted with the narrator's, who is described as having "large, luminous eyes" that convey her inner strength and resilience. Through this imagery, Gilman challenges the traditional notion of male superiority and suggests that women possess their own unique strengths and abilities.

Furthermore, the imagery of the nursery and the childlike decor in the room also serves to subvert traditional gender roles. The narrator is relegated to the role of a child, as she is confined to a room that is reminiscent of a nursery. The wallpaper, with its childish patterns and faded colors, reinforces this regression. By depicting the protagonist as a child, Gilman critiques the infantilization of women in society and highlights the oppressive nature of traditional gender roles.


The use of imagery in "The Yellow Wallpaper" is instrumental in conveying the central themes of confinement, oppression, and the subversion of traditional gender roles. Through vivid descriptions and sensory details, Charlotte Perkins Gilman creates a haunting and evocative portrayal of the protagonist's descent into madness. The imagery of confinement, represented by the physical barriers and the wallpaper, highlights the oppressive nature of the patriarchal society in which she is trapped. Additionally, the imagery associated with John and the nursery subvert traditional gender roles and challenge societal expectations. "The Yellow Wallpaper" serves as a powerful critique of the societal constraints placed upon women and the detrimental effects they can have on their mental well-being.

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In conclusion, the imagery in "The Yellow Wallpaper" not only enhances the reader's understanding of the narrative but also serves as a vehicle for exploring complex themes and ideas. By analyzing the various instances of imagery in the story, we can gain a deeper appreciation for the message that Charlotte Perkins Gilman seeks to convey. "The Yellow Wallpaper" is a timeless piece of literature that continues to captivate readers with its powerful imagery and thought-provoking themes.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Imagery in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins. (2024, Jun 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 23, 2024, from
“Imagery in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins.” GradesFixer, 14 Jun. 2024,
Imagery in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 23 Jul. 2024].
Imagery in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jun 14 [cited 2024 Jul 23]. Available from:
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