Personification In The Yellow Wallpaper, By Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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“The Yellow Wallpaper” is a short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman about a mentally ill woman and her husband’s time at a vacation home. The story details his attempts to nurse the woman back to health. The story is set in Victorian times and the themes of the story reflect that. While staying in the home, the narrator is often cooped up in one bedroom. This isolation, coupled with society’s expectations of women at that time, cause her to dissolve into a complete nervous breakdown. “The Yellow Wallpaper” utilizes imagery, characterization, and personification to show the struggle of a mentally ill woman during the 19th century. The first and most obvious literary device used by Gilman is imagery. From the beginning, when the couple arrives …show more content…
Gilman actually uses this literary device in conjunction with imagery to really focus on and bring the wallpaper to life. The first time the wallpaper is mentioned, it is only described as a pattern, albeit an awful one. After some time has passed, the narrator describes a portion of the wallpaper as looking like “a broken neck and two bulbous eyes”. (pg. 529) This is the first time she personifies the wallpaper. Immediately after this, the narrator alludes to the fact that she often hallucinated as a child. This gives context to her changing descriptions of the wallpaper. The narrator points out a subtle second pattern, but it isn’t until pg. 532 when she describes this pattern as “like a woman stooping down and creeping about”. At one point she swears she sees the woman in the pattern shaking the pattern “as if she wanted to get out”. (pg. 532) She is so convinced by this that she gets up to check if the wall is shaking. It is at exactly this moment that she chooses to tell her husband that she wants to leave the rental house and go back home. It’s apparent now that the woman trapped in the wallpaper is not only a delusion, but is symbolic of the narrator herself. Soon after, the wallpaper of course begins to resemble bars and the woman is stuck behind them. The narrator describes the woman as “subdued, quiet” (pg. 533). She is clearly using the wallpaper to describe how she really sees herself. Shaking and trying to get out, feeling trapped by the pattern. The pattern in this case is representative of society and her marriage, trapping her in. At last in the final scenes of the book, the narrator’s break from reality is complete and she reveals that she has lost sense of where the wallpaper ends and she begins. She says, “’I've got out at last,’ said I, ‘in spite of you and Jane. And I've pulled off most of the paper, so you can't put me back!’" (pg. 537)

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