In The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman the reader is introduced to the narrator who has a “nervous depression”. As a result, her husband, who is a doctor, takes control of her life. He tells her what she can do and when she can do it. He monitors her closely with the help of her sister. Throughout the short story it is obvious that the narrator feels trapped by her husband, which is why I believe the most important passage in this short story is when the narrator states:
I really have discovered something at last Through watching so much at night, when it changes so, I have finally found The front pattern does move--and no wonder! The woman behind shakes it! Sometimes I think there are a great many women behind, and sometimes only one, and she crawls around fast, and her crawling shakes it all over. Then in the very bright spots she keeps still, and in the very shady spots she just takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard. And she is all the time trying to climb through. But nobody could climb through that pattern--it strangles so; I think that is why it has so many heads. They get through, and then the pattern strangles them off and turns them upside down, and makes their eyes white! If those heads were covered or taken off it would not be half so bad (The Yellow Wallpaper).
Obviously there is not a real woman trapped behind the wallpaper. It can be inferred that the trapped woman behind the wallpaper is a manifestation of the author’s imagination. This manifestation depicts what the author truly feels. She feels trapped and oppressed by her husband. The narrator is unable to do anything without his permission. The woman trapped behind the yellow wallpaper struggles to get out but she cannot. Likewise, the narrator tries to convince her husband to take her from the house and he refuses to take her away.
It later states that the woman in the wallpaper “… crawls around fast, and her crawling shakes it all over. Then in the very bright spots she keeps still, and in the very shady spots she just takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard,”(The Yellow Paper). In this sentence the bright and dark symbolizes control and freedom. The bright spot represents morning or daytime in which the narrator’s husband take full control of her. He sets her routines, and keeps a close watch on her. But at night, in the dark, the narrator is not under complete control of her husband. In the dark she is able to take control and her imagination can roam freely without her husband telling her to stop with her fantasies. At the end of the passage it’s stated that some women get through the pattern but then the pattern strangles them off and return them to their confinement. This depicts that the narrator cannot ever attain complete freedom. This also foreshadowed what was going to happen at the end of the story.
At the end of the short story the narrator rips apart the wallpaper in an attempt to free the woman. In essence she has freed herself mentally. But just like how the wallpaper straggled the women that got through its pattern, the narrator will no doubt become physically imprisoned once her husband regains consciousness. She will never truly get complete freedom.