The Yellow Wallpaper Essay: Example and Tips

Do you want to learn to write better? Good essays are often perceived as art, and this, of course, sounds scary. But do not worry. The ability to write well involves certain rules, it is a kind of science. What rules should you know to write essays that the brain will like?

How to write good essays

We present you a list of not obvious tips, which can help you make your writing more attractive and interesting for the reader:

  1. One of the main misconceptions is that it is necessary to express the thought literary, do not write dryly, pour water, expand the text due to the abundance of words, descriptions, complex structures. All the way around. If you have fully expressed a thought or situation and have shown all its complexity in three paragraphs – excellent. Let it be so. If, for example, you were asked to write an essay “not less than 6,000 characters”, and you have no more than 3,000, then turn around a thought, a plot, look for shades that would be healthy to say, remember others situations and describe them. But in general, a smart teacher will accept 3000 – if the author captured his attention in this short segment.
  2. The shorter the better. Imagine that a very long sentence appears in our text. Somewhere in the middle the reader will be lost in it, without following the logic. But as soon as a long sentence is broken into several short ones, attention and positive perception are activated again.
  3. Different lengths of sentences make the text dynamic, it is easier and more fun to read, gradually learning each line.
  4. If you are writing an informational or analytical text, do not forget about the law of high readability: the shorter the word, the higher the readability. In English, a word containing free syllables is considered to be long, in a professional environment there is even a special designation “words 4+”. And when it is necessary to reveal the readability of the text, the following gradation is used:
  • high readability – up to 10% of long words;
  • average readability – 10–30% of long words;
  • low readability – over 30%.
  1. People always carefully read what is listed. So, if part of your story can be presented as a bulleted or numbered list, do it and make sure: the result will be visually appealing.
  2. Connect your own experience – both positive and negative. The best stories are your personal adventures (the reader can only learn about them from you).
  3. Use visualization words: imagine, look, remember, etc.
  4. Write in aphorisms.
  5. Difficult, but possible: write so that your smile is felt by the reader. Of course, it concerns cases when you write about something positive.

Examples of topics for essays about The Yellow Wallpaper

  1. Feminist interpretation of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins- Gilman – used as example
  2. Main characters of The Yellow Wallpaper and their role in the short story
  3. Literature analysis of The Yellow Wallpaper
  4. Social prerequisites of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins- Gilman
  5. Role of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins- Gilman in the development of feminism movement

The Yellow Wallpaper essay example. Feminist interpretation of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins- Gilman


The Yellow Wallpaper is a popular short story by American writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman, first published in January 1892 in The New England Magazine. The novel is viewed as an important early work of American feminist literature.

The story consists of 6,000 words. The story is told from the first person in the form of a diary of a certain woman placed in a room with yellow wallpaper because of postpartum psychosis. The novel written by Gilman after a hard struggle with postpartum psychosis is thus semi-autobiographical.

Jane’s husband, John, the main character of the work, believes that it is in her interest to go on medical rest after the birth of their child. The family spends the summer in a rented colonial mansion, which, according to the narrator, is “something strange”. Jane is locked up in a room upstairs in which, as Jane herself believes, used to be a child’s room. The windows here are boarded up, the wallpaper is torn and the floor is scratched. Jane begins to suspect that another woman was once imprisoned here against her will. The reader is not sure if the damage was caused in the room by the previous resident or the narrator herself, since Jane herself also spoils the situation (once, for example, she bites the wooden bed frame).

Jane keeps a diary secretly from her husband, in which he writes a lot of notes about the wallpaper in the room – their “yellow” smell, “dizzy” pattern, missing parts and how they leave yellow strokes on their skin and clothes when you touch them. She describes how the bedroom increases in length, especially when the wallpaper begins to mutate in the moonlight. In the absence of other incentives, the look of the wallpaper, their design, becomes more and more intriguing for the narrator. Soon she begins to see the figure in the wallpaper pattern and, eventually, comes to the conclusion that there is a woman hiding behind them. Believing that she should try to free the woman from the wallpaper, Jane begins to tear off the remaining paper from the wall.

On the last day of summer, she locks herself in her room to remove the remnants of the wallpaper from the walls. When John decides to return home, Jane refuses to unlock the door. Returning with a key, he finds his wife in circles crawling around the room and touching the wallpaper. She exclaims: “I finally got out!” And John faints, and she continues to circle the room, stepping over her inert husband every time she passes by.

Main part. 1st paragraph. Gilman’s Interpretation of The Yellow Wallpaper

Gilman used literary creativity to explore the role of women in America at that time. She studied issues such as restricting women’s life to the walls of a house and the oppressive power of a patriarchal society. Gilman’s works paved the way for writers such as Alice Walker and Sylvia Plath.

In Yellow Wallpaper, Gilman portrays the madness of the narrator as a way to protest against the medical and professional oppression of women of that era. The impression was made that husbands and male doctors acted with the best of intentions, portraying women mentally injurious and fragile. At the same time, women’s advocates believed that the anger of women diagnosed with mental illness was a manifestation of their inability to properly play the social role assigned to them by dominant men.

Women were not even encouraged to write, because their writing would ultimately form a personality and become a form of disobedience. Gilman realized that the letter was one of the few permitted forms of female existence in times of powerlessness.

Gilman explained that the idea for the work originated from her patient experience: “The real purpose of the work was to reach out to psychiatrist Silas Weir Mitchell and convince him that he was going the wrong way.” She suffered from depression and consulted a well-known medical specialist who prescribed her “complete rest”, a method that demanded “to live as domestic life as possible”. She was forbidden to touch a pen, pencil or brush and was allowed only two hours of mental stimulation per day.

Three months later, almost in despair, Gilman decided to disregard the diagnosis and began to work again. Realizing how close she was to complete mental disorder, she wrote “Yellow Wallpaper” with additions and exaggerations to illustrate her complaint about an incorrect diagnosis. She sent a copy to Mitchell, but never received a response.

She added that The Yellow Wallpaper “was not written to make people crazy, but to save them from insanity, and it worked.” Gilman claimed: many years later, she learned that Mitchell had changed the methods of treatment, but literary historian Julie Bates Doc denied this information. Mitchell continued to develop his methods, and in 1908 — already 16 years after the publication of the Yellow Wallpaper — he was interested in opening hospitals entirely devoted to rest, so that his treatment would be more accessible to the masses.

Main part. 2nd paragraph. Feminist Interpretation of The Yellow Wallpaper

This story was interpreted by feminist critics as a condemnation of male control over nineteenth-century medicine. The narrator’s thoughts about recovery (she should work, not rest, rotate in society, and not remain in isolation, perform maternal duties, and not completely distance herself from her child, etc.) go out of control of the language stereotyped as irrational, and therefore not mistaken about the state of identity. This interpretation is based on the concept of the “home sphere,” in which women of that era were imprisoned.

Feminist critics focus on the triumphal finale of the story. While some argue that the storyteller was distraught, others interpret the ending as finding a female self in a marriage that made a woman feel trapped. The emphasis on reading and writing as gender practices also emphasized the importance of the symbol for wallpaper. When the narrator was not allowed to keep a diary or read, she began to “read” the wallpaper until she found the desired salvation. Seeing women on the wallpaper, the narrator realizes that she can not spend her life behind bars. At the end of the story, when her husband lies unconscious on the floor, she crawls through his body, symbolically rising above him. This is interpreted as a victory over her husband to the detriment of her sanity.

Susan S. Lancer in the articles “Yellow Wallpaper: Feminist Criticism” and “American Color Politics” apologizes modern feminism and its role in changing literary theory and practice. “Yellow wallpapers” were one of many books lost to readers because of the ideology that characterized a number of works as grim or offensive. Critics such as the editor of the journal Atlantic Monthly, rejected the story. Lancer claims that the work of Edgar Allan Poe also tells about poverty and devastation, but his works are still being printed and studied.

The Yellow wallpaper provided feminists with critical tools for different interpretations of literary creativity. Lancer says that the story was “a particularly favorable model for such a rethinking … because the narrator herself comes to a kind of feminist interpretation when she tries to “read” the wallpaper. The narrator tries to reduce the meanings that open in the drawings to a common denominator. At first, she focuses on the inconsistency of the pattern: it is “bright”, but at the same time “stupid”, “clear”, but at the same time “curved” and “vague”. She takes into account the laws and tries to geometrically arrange them, but she gets even more confused. Wallpapers change shade depending on the lighting and emit a distinct smell that Jane cannot recognize. At night, the narrator sees a woman behind bars in a complex wallpaper design. Lancer claims that Jane was able to find “a text space where she can detect any self-prediction.” Lancer creates a connection between the narrator and the reader. Both the one and the other, in contact with a complex confusing text, are trying to find one basic meaning. “So we were taught to read,” writes Lancer, explaining why readers cannot fully understand the text. Patriarchal ideology deprived many scholars of the opportunity to interpret and appreciate such stories as the Yellow Wallpaper. Thanks to feminist criticism, The Yellow wallpaper have become a textbook reading from the standard curriculum. Feminists have made a great contribution to the study of literature, but according to Lancer, their point of view is not absolute, because “if we recognize the fact of the participation of women writers and readers in the dominant discourse and social practices, perhaps our own standards should also be deconstructed since we have to recover still hidden or missed senses.”

Martha J. Cutter, in her article “The Writer as a Doctor: New Models of Medical Discourses in Late Prose by Charlotte Perkins Gilman,” tells how Gilman in her writings fights with male medical institutions “trying to silence a Woman”. Gilman’s works challenge the female social role in the patriarchal medical discourse, showing women to “silent, powerless, and passive” creatures who refuse treatment. Even before the publication of her works, between 1840 and 1890, women were actively positioned as painful and weaker creatures than men. During this period, it was a misconception that “hysteria” (a disease that, according to the stereotype, is more common in women) is the result of too extensive education. It was believed that women who studied at home or in college, excessively stimulated their brains and, therefore, fell ill with hysteria. In fact, many of the diseases attributed to women were seen due to the patient’s loss of self-control. Doctors argued that a doctor should “talk in an authoritative tone” and that a “recovered” woman was “submissive, obedient, quiet and, above all, subordinate to the will and decisions of the doctor”. A hysterical woman is one who craves for power, and, in order to recover, must obey the doctor, whose task is to suppress the desires of the patient. Women were often prescribed bed rest – a form of treatment that was supposed to “tame” them and create the effect of a prison. Such methods were a way to discourage women from rebelliousness and make them conform to social roles. In his works, Gilman stresses that the harm caused to women by such treatment leads to the loss of her own voice. Paula Treyhler explains: “In this story, a public and powerful diagnosis is voiced … This is a man’s voice … that controls a woman narrator and dictates how she should perceive the world and talk about it.” The latent function of the diagnosis is to empower the male voice and weaken the female patients. The story-teller in The Yellow Wallpaper is forbidden to participate in her own treatment or diagnosis, and she has to completely obey the doctor, and her husband tells in this particular story. A male voice has the power to control a woman and decides how she can perceive the world and talk about it.

Main part. 3rd paragraph. Other Interpretations of The Yellow Wallpaper

The Yellow Wallpaper is sometimes referred to as an example of Gothic literature on the treatment of madness and fatigue. Alan Ryan, for example, wrote about the story: “Absolutely, regardless of who created it, it is one of the most beautiful and most powerful horror stories ever written. Perhaps this is a ghost story.” Howard Phillips Lovecraft, the pioneer of the horror genre, writes in his essay Supernatural Horror in Literature (1927): The Story Yellow Wallpaper rises to the level of classics, finely painting a picture of madness that creeps on a woman living in a monstrously smoky room where madness was locked up.”

Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz in the book “Not a Minute of Rest: Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the creation of the Yellow Wallpaper” concludes that “this story was a cry from the heart to [the first husband Gilman, artist Charles Walter] Stetson and protesting against the traditional marriage he demanded. Gilman tried to dismiss the charge in order to protect her daughter Catherine and her stepmother, Gilman Grace Channing’s girlfriend.

Anglican Archbishop Peter Karnley used the story as an example and metaphor for the position of women in the church when he read a sermon before the ordination of the first women priests in Australia on March 7, 1992 (St. George’s Cathedral in Perth).

Sari Edelstein argued that The Yellow Wallpaper is an allegory of Gilman’s hatred of incipient yellow journalism. By writing an essay for The Forerunner in November 1909, Gilman made it clear that she wanted the press to be more insightful and not rely on hyperbolic stories and flashy headlines. Gilman often faced scandals in the media and resented about newspaper sensations. The link between the narrator and the wallpaper in the storyline resembles Gilman’s relationship with the press. The narrator describes the wallpaper as having “extended bright patterns that artistically depict every sin”. Edelstein argues that, given Gilman’s disgust at the yellow press, this can also be viewed as a description of the tabloids of the time.

Paula A. Treyhler, in The Escape from Sentence: Diagnosis and Discourse in Yellow Wallpaper, focuses on the relationship between the woman and the letter depicted in the story. Instead of viewing the text from the point of view of feminism, seeing the wallpaper as something like “… a pattern underlying sexual inequality, external manifestation of neurasthenia, an unconscious narrator, the fate of a narrator in patriarchy,” Treyhler explains that wallpaper can symbolize the realization discourse and the alienation of the narrator from the world, where she previously could somehow express herself. Treyhler shows that, thanks to the discussion about the language and the letter, Charlotte Perkins Gilman in his story challenges “… the sentence imposed by the device of the patriarchal language.” Although Treyhler considers strictly feminist interpretations legitimate, she writes that wallpaper can be understood as female language and discourse, and a woman found on wallpaper can be “… representation of women, possible only after women have the right to speak.” In her opinion, the text reveals traces of a new struggle – between two forms of writing: the first is the old and the traditional, the other is new and exciting. This is confirmed by the fact that John, the husband of the storyteller, does not like his wife writing anything, so the diary containing this story is kept secret and, therefore, is known only to the storyteller and readers. On closer examination, it turns out that as the contact between the narrator and the wallpaper increases, her speech also increases, as she increasingly writes about frustration and despair.


The first mention of this story I met in the TV series “American horror story” a few years ago. But I read it only now. The mood was on a mystical story, but everything turned out to be completely different, but no less terrible. The doctor and his young wife come to a rented house, where they intend to spend the next three months. A woman suffers from a nervous disease and from not being listened to, not being taken seriously, and not wanting to listen to any of her wishes. The husband tries to show care in his understanding and probably wants to cope with his wife’s neurosis with means that were considered effective in the nineteenth century – he tries to provide her with peace, prescribes to lie down, eat and take vitamins, limits communication (even nurses), point blank without noticing that all this leads to a fatal outcome.

A woman plunges headlong into an obsessive idea of ​​yellow wallpaper that annoys her from the very first day of her stay in the house and this completely drives her crazy. Some details made me think that it’s not the madness of the main character, but a certain mystical power that hides in this room and this wallpaper – in the end, even earlier, there were bars on the previous residents from the windows, bitten furniture and ragged wallpaper … (remember what happened to the main character at the end).

Immediately after reading the story, I wanted to blame the husband for everything, who did not listen to his wife, but after some arguments, my opinion changed. We should also take into account the medicine of the 19th century. John, as a doctor, was confident in the effectiveness of the technique, he in every possible way took care of his wife, worried for her. Wikipedia says that the story is viewed as an important early work of American feminist literature, that the woman behind the wallpaper personifies the oppressed position of women at that time. But the story is only on behalf of the wife, the narrator, i.e. on the one hand, and it is really a pity for her, but I cannot blame her husband, because he did his best to recover her.

The room in which she lived, in fact, was very strange: bars on the windows, torn wallpaper, a bed with numerous teeth marks, mounts on the walls. Dual feeling – on the one hand, it could be a room in which mentally ill people were kept, and on the other, in fact, a nursery, which was converted into a gymnasium. But changing the room would still not have solved all the problems of the narrator.