The Yellow Wallpaper Character Analysis

Subject: 📚 Literature
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 4
Word count: 1101
Topics: The Yellow Wallpaper, 📗 Book
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The Yellow Wallpaper has five characters but the book largely focuses on the main character. This focus is because the book is written as diary entries from the main character who is the narrator. The narrator introduces us to her family, John the husband, their young baby, and Jennie who is John’s sister. The Nanny that takes care of the baby completes the character list of The Yellow Wallpaper. The narrator’s diary entries are also largely focused on herself and show her descent into madness following a life of paranoia caused by boredom. One can analyze the book while considering the character of the author, who was a feminist. Thus, there is proof that The Yellow Wallpaper characters are painted from the point of view of how a feminist would write a trapped woman in the nineteenth century.

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The Narrator

The Narrator is an upper-class mother. The book does not reveal much else about the identity as even her name is not explicitly said, although there has been discussion on whether or not it’s Jane (Perkins, 2022). Her introduction tells us that she is suffering from depression, most likely caused by her recent childbirth. She is alluded to have been involved in an intellectual profession before her childbirth. She is the main character of the book and the story is told from her point of view as written by her in her diary. The details were given about her at the start, a mother from the upper class can help understand her character and explain her behavior.

The narrator is paranoid and depressed. Her first entry in the diary states that she does not like the new house they moved into. She believes the house is haunted and queer (Perkins, 2022). This shows a state of paranoia where she thinks a house is haunted due to its state. The move was initiated by her husband because of her depressed state after her childbirth. Her husband tells her that the move is for her sake and she is not sick but only needs some rest. Her paranoia worsens during her stay at the new mansion where she becomes obsessed with a yellow wallpaper featuring various patterns. During her time in the room with the yellow wallpaper, she studies the patterns and eventually concludes that there is a woman trapped in the wallpaper (Perkins, 2022). This eventually leads to her believing she is the woman trapped in the wallpaper and her last diary entry is of her husband finding her in this state. Her paranoia and depression have resulted in madness and her seeing things that are not there.

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The narrator also possesses various other characteristics not majorly discussed in the short story. Firstly, she shows that she is smart and from an intellectual background. She states that she used to write before they moved to the mansion and she misses the writing. Additionally, when describing the wallpaper, she uses various physics terms to explain that the pattern in the wallpaper is not following any logic she has heard of (Perkins, 2022). Secondly, the woman shows herself to be a good mother as regardless of her paranoia and descent into madness, she does not report any incident where she wronged her young baby. She seems lonely as she writes about the people she lives with rather than engaging in gossip with other people (Lorenz, 2015). Additionally, she writes about how she is always angry with her husband and how he is often not at home due to his job. This is the character analysis of the narrator of The Yellow Wallpaper.

John

John is the husband of the narrator and a physician. His job is the main motivation for the family moving to the new house as John believes that some rest could help his wife recover from the depression. He shows that he loves his wife as he never gets angry with her regardless of her various episodes of paranoia and madness. Additionally, he was seen as a responsible and dignified person as his wife is not working but they maintain their upper-class status and he is often held up at work working cases even at night (Gilman, 2012). These are some of its positive traits of John.

As discussed, the author of the story is a feminist and aimed to show her dislike for traditional family roles seen in the nineteenth century. Thus, John is seen to be imposing and trying to uphold the core family roles despite her wife’s situation (Gilman, 2012). He believes his wife is not sick and imposes his own medicine on her even though she disagrees with the new house or her not being allowed to write. He keeps referring to the narrator as his little girl or his love and seems to treat her like a child (Gilman, 2012). He believes that the narrator will heal by staying at home and doing mostly nothing as he has a nanny to take care of the child and his sister to take care of the house. His final character is shown when he faints at the end of the short story when he finally grasps how sick his wife truly was. John’s character analysis portrays how traditional family roles without a good understanding of people’s actual needs can negatively impact a family.

Other Characters

The other three characters are not majorly fleshed out in the short story. Jennie is John’s sister and the housekeeper. The narrator sees her as enthusiastic. She also often shows care for the well-being of both John and the narrator. The nanny is the one who takes care of the baby. No other details about the nanny are provided, only that the nanny is good with the baby. The same case is seen with the baby where the narrator does not describe them at all. These are other characters present in The Yellow Wallpaper.

Conclusion

The Yellow Wallpaper’s author was a feminist and thus projected her beliefs into the short story’s characters. The narrator is seen as a depressed woman who is deprived of intellectual activities by her husband. This leads her to boredom then paranoia and soon after madness when her paranoia convinces her that the patterns in the yellow wallpaper in her room represent her and that she was trapped in the wallpaper. John, the husband, is a physician who imposes on his wife and treats her like a child leading to her descent into madness. He is holding on to the traditional family roles despite the condition of his wife. These reasons show how the author wrote her characters to help spread her beliefs on traditional family roles.

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  1. Gilman, C. P. (2012). Why I wrote The Yellow Wallpaper? Advances in psychiatric treatment17(4), 265-265.
  2. Lorenz, Ben. (2015). The Yellow Wallpaper Characters. https://www.litcharts.com/lit/the-yellow-wallpaper/characters
  3.  Perkins, G. C. (2022). The Yellow Wallpaper. New England Magazine.
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