What is the Main Conflict in The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman?

Updated 28 August, 2023
The primary conflict in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" is the protagonist's internal battle against both societal oppression and her deteriorating mental health. She's trapped in a room by her husband, John, reflecting the societal norms of the time that constrain women's autonomy. Simultaneously, her mental state worsens as she becomes obsessed with the room's yellow wallpaper, symbolizing her own confinement. This interplay of internal and external conflicts highlights the protagonist's struggle for agency and freedom within a repressive environment, offering a profound exploration of the psychological impact of both societal norms and mental illness.
Detailed answer:

"The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman portrays the main conflict as a multi-layered struggle involving the protagonist's internal battles against societal oppression and her own deteriorating mental health.

The primary conflict emerges from the societal norms of the time, which dictate that women should adhere to a submissive and passive role. The protagonist, confined to a room by her husband, John, experiences a deep sense of entrapment and powerlessness. She expresses her feelings of repression, stating, "John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage." This societal conflict is exacerbated by her husband's dismissive attitude towards her thoughts and emotions, which prevents her from asserting her autonomy.

However, the core of the conflict is the protagonist's internal struggle against her deteriorating mental health. Isolated in the room with the yellow wallpaper, she becomes increasingly fixated on the pattern, seeing it as a woman trapped behind bars. Her mental state deteriorates as she succumbs to her obsession, expressing, "I've got out at spite of you and Jane. And I've pulled off most of the paper, so you can't put me back!" The wallpaper serves as a metaphor for her own confinement, and her descent into madness becomes a manifestation of her internal conflict.

As the story progresses, the protagonist's internal and external conflicts merge, blurring the lines between reality and her distorted perceptions. Her increasing obsession with the wallpaper reflects her struggle for agency and freedom in the face of both societal expectations and her own mental illness.

In conclusion, "The Yellow Wallpaper" presents a complex interplay of conflicts. The main conflict lies in the protagonist's dual struggle against the societal norms that repress her and her deteriorating mental health that distorts her perceptions. The story provides a harrowing exploration of the psychological impact of patriarchal norms and the consequences of suppressing women's voices and autonomy. Through the protagonist's experiences, the story sheds light on the damaging effects of such conflicts on mental well-being and the importance of recognizing and addressing them.

Do you have any other questions?
Question has been sent. We'll take a look at it in 1 day Ask another question

Where do you want us to send this sample?

    By clicking “Continue”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy.


    Be careful. This essay is not unique

    This essay was donated by a student and is likely to have been used and submitted before

    Download this Sample

    Free samples may contain mistakes and not unique parts


    Sorry, we could not paraphrase this essay. Our professional writers can rewrite it and get you a unique paper.



    Please check your inbox.

    We can write you a custom essay that will follow your exact instructions and meet the deadlines. Let's fix your grades together!


    We can help you get a better grade and deliver your task on time!

    • Instructions Followed To The Letter
    • Deadlines Met At Every Stage
    • Unique And Plagiarism Free
    Order your paper now