The Yellow Wallpaper Characters

Published
The Yellow Wallpaper Characters

Welcome to our comprehensive guide to the characters in “The Yellow Wallpaper”! Published on November 8, 2022, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s well-developed characters bring this haunting story to life. Through the eyes of the narrator, Jane, we are given a glimpse into the inner struggles and identity of women’s lives in the late 19th century.

The story revolves around the character of Jane, who was suffering from an illness and was confined to a bedroom with yellow wallpaper. Throughout the story, Jane’s descent into madness is revealed through her interactions with the wallpaper. The wallpaper becomes a symbol of her suffering and isolation, as well as her escape from the constraints of society.



One of the most memorable and enigmatic characters in the story is the housekeeper, who believes that Jane’s nighttime escapades are due to her imagination. Despite Jane’s pleas for help and her opinions on the negative effects of the wallpaper, the housekeeper dismisses her concerns. This character highlights the struggles faced by women during this time period, where their opinions and options were often disregarded.

Another key character in the story is Jane’s husband, John. Although well-intentioned, John’s actions and beliefs ultimately contribute to Jane’s worsening state. He believes that her illness is temporary and can be cured through rest and isolation. However, his treatment only serves to further isolate Jane and exacerbate her descent into madness.

As the story progresses, the wallpaper becomes a central character in its own right. Jane’s obsession with the wallpaper grows, and she begins to see figures trapped behind the pattern. This symbolic imagery highlights Jane’s struggle for freedom and her desire to break free from the confines of her illness and societal expectations.

In each room of the estate, the wallpaper becomes a physical manifestation of the narrator’s deteriorating mental state. As Jane continues her journey, the wallpaper becomes a link between her inner self and the outside world, revealing the full extent of her suffering.



Throughout the story, Gilman provides examples of the narrator’s struggles and reveals the complexities of her character. By linking the wallpaper to Jane’s state of mind, we see how her illness and the wallpaper become entangled, ultimately leading to her confinement and loss of identity.

By the story’s ending, Jane has become the madwoman behind the wallpaper, symbolizing her final descent into madness. The yellow wallpaper, once a source of fascination and hope for Jane, becomes an oppressive force that keeps her trapped.

As you delve into this analysis of “The Yellow Wallpaper” and its characters, you will find a wealth of essays, quotes, and fictional examples highlighting the impact and importance of each character. So sit back, relax, and check out our comprehensive guide to “The Yellow Wallpaper” characters.



Exploring the Characters in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Jane’s identification and state of mind are revealed through her interactions with other characters and her thoughts about the yellow wallpaper. The wallpaper, with its peeling and unsettling patterns, becomes a symbol of Jane’s deteriorating mental state and her suffering in confinement.

One of the most negative influences on Jane’s character is her husband John. Though well-intentioned, John’s treatment of Jane is damaging, isolating her from the outside world and dismissing her opinions and desires. As the story progresses, Jane begins to question her identity and her role as a woman, leading to increasingly desperate actions.

Jane’s journey is further complicated by the presence of Jennie, John’s sister, who seems to represent the epitome of womanhood. Jennie appears to have accepted her submissive role, and her presence reminds Jane of the societal expectations placed on women.

Throughout the story, Jane’s obsession with the yellow wallpaper grows, and she imagines a woman trapped behind the patterns. This imaginary madwoman symbolizes Jane’s own mental state and serves as a warning of the dangers of suppressing one’s true self.

In the ending of the story, Jane fully embraces her madness and becomes the woman she believes she has discovered behind the wallpaper. This transformation, though tragic, represents Jane’s liberation from societal constraints and her reclaiming of her own identity.

Overall, the characters in “The Yellow Wallpaper” provide examples of the damaging effects of the oppression faced by women in society. Through Jane’s experience, the story sheds light on the negative consequences of denying women their autonomy and suppressing their voices.

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Character Role
Jane The protagonist and narrator of the story. Represents women’s struggles in a patriarchal society.
John Jane’s husband, whose well-intentioned treatment of her leads to her isolation and suffering.
Jennie John’s sister, who embodies the societal expectations placed on women.

The Protagonist – Jane

Jane, the narrator of the story, is an ordinary woman who writes about her experiences while imprisoned in a room. The story highlights her suffering and the negative effects of her treatment, which becomes an account of her descent into madness.

Jane’s character is well-developed throughout the story. She tries to maintain a semblance of normalcy, even though her mind is slowly deteriorating. She writes in her journal, which acts as a form of escape and a way for her to express herself freely.

Jane’s struggles are made evident by her interactions with the other characters in the story. Her husband, John, and her sister-in-law, Jennie, are both presented as well-intentioned individuals who fail to understand the depths of her illness. Jane’s journals also serve as a reflection of the societal pressures on women during that time period.

The Wallpaper

The wallpaper itself is a central symbol in the story. Jane’s fascination with the peeling, yellow wallpaper that adorns the room becomes an obsession. She believes that there is a woman trapped behind the pattern and becomes determined to set her free.

As Jane’s mental state deteriorates, she becomes increasingly fixated on the wallpaper, seeing disturbing patterns and images within its design. The wallpaper symbolizes her own imprisonment and confinement, both physically and mentally.

Throughout the story, Jane’s obsession with the wallpaper is a metaphor for her own struggle to break free from societal norms and expectations. The wallpaper serves as a manifestation of her own mind, as it creeps and wriggles, much like her deteriorating mental state.

Escaping the Wallpaper

In the final scene of the story, Jane finally escapes the confines of the wallpaper and the room. She does so by tearing it down, symbolizing her breaking free from her own mental constraints and the societal expectations placed upon her.

This act of liberation is a powerful moment in the story, highlighting the theme of empowering oneself and freeing one’s mind. It suggests that Jane has found some level of agency and independence, despite her struggles.

Character Analysis Full Name Age
Jane N/A 49+
John John N/A
Jennie Jennie N/A

John, Jane’s Husband

John, an intelligent and educated man, is a physician by profession. However, his treatment of the narrator’s mental illness is questionable. He dismisses her concerns and insists that the best remedy for her condition is rest. He even goes as far as forbidding her from writing, claiming it would worsen her mind. John’s actions perpetuate the patriarchal notions of the time, suppressing Jane’s voice and agency.

Throughout the story, John’s dismissive nature towards the narrator’s mental state is evident. Despite her insistence that something is wrong with the wallpaper in their bedroom, John refuses to acknowledge her concerns. He believes her imagination is running wild and does not take her seriously. This lack of empathy and understanding adds to the narrator’s deteriorating mental state.

John’s character represents the traditional beliefs and attitudes towards women’s mental health in the late 19th century. His approach to treating the narrator reflects the common medical practices of the time, which often disregarded women’s autonomy and imposed damaging treatments. John’s treatment of the narrator ultimately leads her on a journey to madness.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the author of “The Yellow Wallpaper,” wrote this story as a critique of the prevailing beliefs about women’s mental health during her time. She draws from her own experiences with a similar treatment and uses the character of John to illustrate the damaging effects of such practices.

In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” John’s descent into obliviousness reflects the narrator’s struggle to maintain her sanity and sense of identity. As the wallpaper peels and reveals its hidden secrets, the narrator becomes fixated and eventually identifies herself with the woman behind the wallpaper. This symbolic connection between the narrator and the wallpaper represents her journey towards freeing herself from the constraints of her husband and society.

Overall, John’s character represents the oppressive nature of the male-dominated society in “The Yellow Wallpaper.” His actions and beliefs contribute to the narrator’s isolation and worsening mental illness. Through John’s character, Gilman sheds light on the damaging consequences of depriving women of their autonomy and suppressing their voices.

Jennie, John’s Sister

Given that the story is told through the first-person perspective of the narrator, Jennie becomes an essential character who can shed light on the overall state of the main character’s mind. While the narrator sees herself as the madwoman trapped behind the wallpaper, Jennie remains the one who tries to cheer her up and brighten the bedroom.

In many ways, Jennie can be seen as a foil to the narrator’s character. While the narrator is suffering from mental illness and losing touch with reality, Jennie appears composed and rational. As John’s sister, she represents the typical American woman of that time, highlighting the theme of womanhood in the story.

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Jennie’s presence also reveals some opinions on the treatment of mental illness in the late 19th century. She seems to accept John’s authority unquestioningly and follows his instructions without hesitation. This link between John and Jennie shows how the men in the story, including the husband, John, and the brother, try to control and confine women. The character of Jennie, therefore, serves as a contrasting example to the narrator’s plight.

Throughout the story, the narrator’s interactions with Jennie indicate her desire for freedom. She is drawn to the window and dreams of escaping the room. Jennie, however, does not understand the narrator’s need for independence and her yearning for liberation from the oppressive wallpaper.

When the narrator eventually identifies herself with the creeping woman behind the wallpaper, it is Jennie who ultimately fails to perceive the extent of the narrator’s suffering. She remains oblivious to the narrator’s journey towards self-realization, as she sees the narrator’s fixation on the wallpaper as mere hyperactivity of an imagination.

The Mysterious Woman in the Wallpaper

In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the mysterious woman in the wallpaper serves as a symbolic representation of the narrator’s inner struggles and the oppressive nature of her husband, John. She becomes a central character in the story, revealing important themes about gender roles, womanhood, and the damaging effects of societal expectations.

The woman in the wallpaper is first introduced when the narrator begins peeling back the layers of the wallpaper in her secluded bedroom. As she spends more time alone in the room, the woman’s presence becomes more prominent, creeping and creeping throughout the pattern. This creeping symbolizes the slow deterioration of the narrator’s mental state and her journey towards self-discovery.

The woman in the wallpaper is depicted as trapped behind bars, desperate to escape. This can be seen as a metaphor for the narrator’s own desire to break free from the constraints of her role as a wife and mother. The wallpaper’s pattern also reflects the repetitive and monotonous nature of the narrator’s life, as she describes it as “dull enough to confuse the eye in following, pronounced enough to constantly irritate and provoke study.”

Throughout the story, the narrator becomes fixated on the woman in the wallpaper, observing her every move and trying to decipher her identity. This obsession reveals the narrator’s longing for her own freedom and autonomy, as she sees herself reflected in the woman’s struggles.

The woman in the wallpaper can also be seen as a symbol of the societal expectations placed on women during the time period in which the story is set. The narrator’s husband, John, believes that women should be passive and submissive, and he tries to suppress the narrator’s desires and opinions. The woman in the wallpaper represents the narrator’s own repressed voice and desires, as well as the collective experiences of women who were not given a voice or agency.

The narrator’s belief that the woman in the wallpaper is trying to free herself parallels her own journey towards self-liberation. As the story progresses, the narrator begins to identify more and more with the woman, ultimately tearing down the wallpaper in an act of rebellion against her husband’s authority.

In her written journal, the narrator expresses her growing connection with the woman in the wallpaper, though she fears her own sanity is slipping. She writes, “I don’t want to go out, and I don’t want to have anybody come in, till John comes. I want to astonish him.” This passage reveals the narrator’s desire to assert her independence and challenge the constraints placed upon her.

Overall, the mysterious woman in the wallpaper plays a central role in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” representing the narrator’s struggle for identity and freedom. Through her journey, Charlotte Perkins Gilman explores themes of gender inequality, repression, and the damaging effects of societal expectations. The woman’s presence throughout the story serves as a powerful symbol of the narrator’s own desire for self-discovery and liberation.

FAQ

Who is the main character of “The Yellow Wallpaper”?

The main character of “The Yellow Wallpaper” is Jane.

What is Jane’s role in the story?

Jane is both the protagonist and the narrator of the story. She is a young woman who is suffering from a mental illness.

What does Jane’s mental state represent in “The Yellow Wallpaper”?

Jane’s mental state represents the oppression and confinement of women in patriarchal society. It symbolizes the lack of agency and control that women had during that time period.

How does Jane’s mental illness progress throughout the story?

Jane’s mental illness progressively worsens throughout the story as she becomes more obsessed with the yellow wallpaper in her room. She begins to see disturbing images and believes that there is a woman trapped behind the wallpaper.

What is the significance of the yellow wallpaper in “The Yellow Wallpaper”?

The yellow wallpaper symbolizes the oppression and confinement that women faced in society. It also represents the deterioration of Jane’s mental state as she becomes more obsessed with it. The wallpaper acts as a metaphor for the barriers that women had to face and the struggles they endured.

Alex Koliada, PhD

By Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for studying aging, genetics, and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics. His scientific research has been published in the most reputable international magazines. Alex holds a BA in English and Comparative Literature from the University of Southern California, and a TEFL certification from The Boston Language Institute.