What Does Creeping Mean In The Yellow Wallpaper?1

Updated 14 August, 2023
In "The Yellow Wallpaper," the term "creeping" holds both literal and metaphorical meanings. Literally, it refers to the protagonist's obsession with the pattern of the wallpaper in her room, where she believes she sees a woman creeping behind the design. Metaphorically, it symbolizes her own descent into madness as she becomes increasingly obsessed with the wallpaper and her isolation. The creeping woman symbolizes the protagonist's own suppressed desires and frustrations, mirroring her own deteriorating mental state.
Detailed answer:

In the short story "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the term "creeping" holds a significant and multifaceted meaning. The story explores the psychological deterioration of the protagonist, a woman suffering from postpartum depression, as she is confined to a room with yellow wallpaper by her physician husband.
Literal Interpretation: On a literal level, "creeping" refers to the protagonist's fixation on the pattern of the yellow wallpaper. As her mental state deteriorates, she becomes obsessed with the wallpaper's design, believing she sees a woman creeping behind the intricate pattern. She describes the woman as struggling to escape from the wallpaper's bars, paralleling the protagonist's sense of confinement and her longing for freedom.
Metaphorical Interpretation: Metaphorically, "creeping" symbolizes the protagonist's gradual descent into madness. The creeping woman in the wallpaper becomes a reflection of the protagonist's repressed desires, frustrations, and struggles. As the story unfolds, the protagonist's increasing preoccupation with the creeping woman mirrors her deteriorating mental state. The more she fixates on the woman, the more she disconnects from reality, blurring the line between her imagination and actual events.
The room with the yellow wallpaper also acts as a metaphorical prison, reflecting the societal norms and expectations that confine women during that period. The protagonist's isolation in this room exacerbates her mental health issues, and her growing obsession with the creeping woman symbolizes her yearning to break free from the constraints imposed on her by a patriarchal society.
Furthermore, the story comments on the medical practices of the time, which often dismissed women's emotional and mental needs. The husband, a physician, believes that rest and isolation are the cure for the protagonist's condition, but these methods only worsen her mental state. The creeping woman can be seen as a representation of the protagonist's suppressed emotions and desires, which are ignored and invalidated by both her husband and society.

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