Character Analysis: The Yellow Wallpaper By Charlotte Perkins

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The Yellow Wallpaper
A Character Analysis
Charlotte Perkins

A story of a young woman devolving into madness, The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins, details the narrator’s initial normalcy turn towards hysterical and delusional thoughts. The main character starts out as Jane whose identity becomes more and more confused toward the end of the story. Her husband, John, is a physician and takes responsibility for Jane’s care with the help of his sister Jennie. John insists on keeping Jane in the home that they are renting so that she can recover from her undisclosed illness. Jane, possibly due to the fact that she is essentially trapped in the house by the will of her husband, begins to obsess over the wallpaper in a particular room.
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Jane’s paranoia manifests itself when she begins imagining ‘creeping women’ everywhere she looked. “The front pattern does move—and no wonder! The woman behind shakes it! Sometimes I think there are a great many women behind, and something only one, and she crawls around, and her crawling shakes it all over” (654). Jane’s obsession (more on this later) with the wallpaper causes her to hallucinate and envision that the wallpaper has some sort of agency. Jane’s delusions take hold and she begins to think that her husband and sister-in-law, Jennie, are colluding with the wallpaper. “I have watched John when he did not know I was looking, and come into the room suddenly on the most innocent excuses, and I’ve caught him several times looking at the paper! And Jennie too. I caught Jennie with her hand on it once” (653). Further, she insinuates that Jennie had snuck away to see the wallpaper, as if to make some nefarious deal with it. “…I asked her…what she was doing with the paper—she turned around as if she had been …show more content…
Although these traits are closely related, they can be pulled apart and used to describe different aspects of Jane’s personality. Throughout the story, she is constantly thinking about the wallpaper in the nursery. In fact, Jane’s obsession over the wallpaper is so central to the story is the namesake of Stetson’s writing. For instance, a simple look at the wallpaper sets Jane off on a long train of thoughts: “It is the strangest yellow that wallpaper! It makes me think of all the yellow things I ever saw—not beautiful ones like buttercups, but old foul, bad yellow things. But there is something else about the paper—the smell! The only thing I can think of that it is like is the color of the paper! A yellow smell” (654). Here Jane is obsessing over the wallpaper and is referring to how not just her sense of sight, but her sense of smell, is being assaulted by the wallpaper. Even when Jane is not directly looking (or smelling) the wallpaper, she cannot manage to turn her mind off, she cannot stop thinking about the wallpaper. Feigning sleep while John lay next to her, Jane continued to think about the patterning on the wallpaper and how much she despised some of the misalignments. “He thought I was asleep first, but I wasn’t, and lay there for hours trying to decide whether that front pattern and the back pattern really did move together or separately.” Jane loses many nights of

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