The Yellow Wall-Paper: A Tale of Mental Illness and Social Reform - Paper Example

Published: 2023-09-15
The Yellow Wall-Paper: A Tale of Mental Illness and Social Reform - Paper Example
Type of paper:  Literature review
Categories:  The Yellow Wallpaper
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 990 words
9 min read


The Yellow Wall-Paper is the short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, focusing on the twisted life of the female narrator suffering from mental disorders. Gilman, who was a great writer and novelist as well as a social reform professor, uses the story to contextualize the theme of mental illness. The story closely relates to her mental disorders of depression and anxiety during her marriage life. The narrator, who seems to be in alienation from the rest of the world, suffers from numerous depressive episodes of mental illness. She lives in a world of her own where she perceives things not common to other characters. The mentally-derailed narrator in the story experiences depressed moods, which drives her into obtaining solace from the ordinary things. Thus, she identifies with the wallpaper, which has trapped several women, including the domestic patterns of life. Therefore she seeks to get ultimate freedom by tearing down the yellow wallpaper to let the women loose. Although the story takes a lighter note when addressing mental health issues, several outstanding elements of psychiatric disorders, including alienation, the issue of women and mental disorders, and palliative care for the sufferings are evident in the story.

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Alienation and the plight of the mentally ill patient is the central theme in The Yellow Wall-Paper. The narrator is a married woman who, despite the care that she gets from the husband, and the caregivers still feels alone. She lives in a world of her own where she lacks people with whom she can share the trends in her mind. As a result, she finds solace in writing and keeping a diary. The narrator suffers from mental disorders and strongly feels that she has a problem. However, the husband, who is a specialized doctor, and who would best understand her plight is cut off from this suffering. He keeps on insisting that she is getting better, yet the woman experiences a series of depressed moods, anxiety, and loneliness (Gilman 138). By insisting that she keeps staying in the same room that haunts her feeling, John indicates that she does not relate to the sufferings that the environment causes. He gives the woman what he believes is right for her without listening to her inner feelings. According to the narrator, John would not like her to keep writing, which was her only way of relieving the depression and horrific experiences that she was going through (Gilman 137). Just like the woman in the wallpaper, she is imprisoned in the room with no way of confronting the inner sufferings and expressing these inner thoughts through writing. Therefore, she resorts to set the woman trapped in the “patterns” of the wallpaper so that she can, at last, be free.

Women and mental disorder is the foundation of the story. Gilman’s story reflects on the traditional perspective of mental disorders that considered women as the primary victims. She communicates the psychological trends of the narrator using numerous visual elements. The visualization of the aspect of mental illnesses through the character’s mental processes and the yellow wallpaper is essential in clearly portraying and demonstrating the magnitude of the suffering (Church 6). The approach of using descriptive episodes when addressing the whole issue of mental illness breaks down the theme making it understandable to the young readers. The yellow wallpaper and the women that the narrator perceives as held captive in the patterns seems to be a form of communication of the social reforms in the society when it comes to mental disorders in lights of gender disparity.

The palliative care given by the husband and Jane focuses on the physical wellbeing of the narrator and ignores the emotional and psychological suffering that she experiences. The narrator categorically states, “John is practical in the extreme. He has no patience with faith, an intense horror of superstition, and he scoffs openly at any talk of things not to be felt and seen and put down in figures” (p.131). Through the narrator’s voice, one can clearly understand that most of her plight is as a result of a lack of inner-connection with the outside world. The narrator, at one point, admits that she only feels okay when John is around and that the situation changes when he gets out to work. Therefore, she seems to yearn for the moments when they spend time together with John. These moments make her feel okay and alleviate most of the stress, anxiety, and depression. A critical analysis of this situation indicates that there has been a failure in the caregiving to the narrator. The case closely relates to The Picture of Madness’s perspective, which states that women with mental illnesses were more of “objects” or “sick humans” that needed utmost care and check till their sanities were restored (Church 6). The study focuses on “pity” as one of the fundamental care for mentally ill individuals. A similar case is evident throughout the story. However, it does not seem to work as the narrator gets more and more drowned and consumed by her own alienated world.


Conclusively, Gilman’s The Yellow Wall-Paper explores the issues of women and mental illnesses. It addresses the essential aspects of mental illnesses, including the disassociation and alienation of the patients, the sufferings the patients go through, as well as the palliative care that people with mental illnesses deserve. Gilman uses visualization elements to approach mental health illnesses and the mentality of the people with these ailments. The text addresses the disconnection and inefficiency of the care given to the people suffering from the disorder from the mental health patient’s standpoint.

Works Cited

Church, Imogen. "The picture of madness–Visual narratives of female mental illness in contemporary children’s literature." Children's Literature in Education 49.2 (2018): 119-139.

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The yellow wallpaper and other writings. Gibbs Smith, 2019.

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The Yellow Wall-Paper: A Tale of Mental Illness and Social Reform - Paper Example. (2023, Sep 15). Retrieved from

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