The Yellow Wallpaper Essay Topics: Discover Unique Ideas to Explore

The Yellow Wallpaper Essay Topics: Discover Unique Ideas to Explore

When it comes to analyzing Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” there is no shortage of thought-provoking topics to explore. The story’s main character, Jane, undergoes a drastic transformation throughout the narrative, and her journey towards self-discovery raises vital questions about the role of women in society. In this essay guide, we will give you a comprehensive list of essay topics, discussion prompts, and research references to help you dive deep into the themes and analysis of “The Yellow Wallpaper.”

One of the most essential topics to consider is the wallpaper itself. Its yellow color and pattern hold a significant function in the story, contrasting the narrator’s desires with the societal norms of the time. Analyzing the wallpaper’s symbolism and its impact on the narrator’s thoughts and actions can provide valuable insights into the theme of confinement and the woman’s inability to express herself.

In order to support your analysis, it is vital to use quotes and examples from the text. References to specific events and the narrator’s inner thoughts can offer a deeper understanding of the story’s themes and provide a solid foundation for your arguments. Furthermore, a comparison with other literary works or real-life examples can enrich your essay and showcase the relevance of “The Yellow Wallpaper” in a broader context.

So, if you’re looking for unique and thought-provoking essay topics on “The Yellow Wallpaper,” this guide is your perfect starting point. Whether you choose to delve into the psychological aspects of the story, the societal implications, or the narrator’s journey towards self-discovery, remember to support your arguments with strong references and analysis. With a well-researched and well-structured essay, you can shine a light on the themes and ideas presented in Gilman’s iconic work.

Analyzing the Symbolism in “The Yellow Wallpaper”

Throughout the story, the yellow wallpaper undergoes a transformation, mirroring the changes happening within the narrator herself. Initially, the wallpaper is described as “repellent, almost revolting, a smouldering unclean yellow” (Gilman 61). This description reflects the woman’s initial feelings of disgust and unease towards her own confinement. However, as her mental state deteriorates, her perception of the wallpaper changes, and she becomes almost obsessed with it. She notices its patterns and starts seeing a woman trapped behind the wallpaper, as if mirroring her own entrapment.

The wallpaper can be seen as a metaphor for the woman’s own suppressed desires and need for freedom. It represents the oppressive societal norms imposed on her, reflected in the constant attempts to change her and make her conform to the role expected of her as a wife and mother. The constant pattern of the wallpaper parallels the monotony and lack of individuality the woman experiences in her life.

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In addition, the wallpaper also symbolizes the narrator’s own deteriorating mental state. As she becomes more obsessed with the wallpaper, her thoughts become increasingly erratic and irrational. The woman’s inability to explain her thoughts and her growing frustration with her own mind are represented by the confusing and chaotic patterns of the wallpaper.

By analyzing the symbolism of the yellow wallpaper, readers can gain a deeper understanding of the narrator’s experience and the themes of oppression, gender roles, and mental health present in the story. It also prompts important questions about the effects of societal expectations on individuals, the impact of repressed desires, and the need for self-expression.

Exploring the Theme of Female Oppression in “The Yellow Wallpaper”

The story’s main character, Jane (whose name is not explicitly mentioned), serves as a symbol for all women who have been silenced and confined by societal expectations. This theme is further emphasized by the fact that Jane is not allowed to write or express her thoughts, as it is seen as a “forbidden” activity for women at that time.

One of the most powerful examples of female oppression in the story is the yellow wallpaper itself. As the protagonist spends more time in the room with the wallpaper, her mental state deteriorates. The wallpaper becomes a physical representation of the societal constraints placed upon women, trapping them in a pattern of submission and powerlessness.

In contrast, the woman trapped within the wallpaper represents the narrator’s desire for freedom and self-expression. Through her inability to escape the wallpaper, the author highlights the consequences of denying women agency and control over their own lives.

Furthermore, Gilman’s use of the first-person narrative in “The Yellow Wallpaper” allows readers to directly experience the narrator’s descent into madness. This literary technique gives voice to the inner thoughts and emotions of a woman trapped in a patriarchal society, making the story’s message even more impactful.

When analyzing the theme of female oppression, it is important to examine the historical and social context in which the story takes place. During the 19th century, women were often expected to fulfill specific roles within the home and were denied opportunities for education, intellectual pursuits, and creative expression. The yellow wallpaper serves as a metaphor for these societal limitations, reflecting the confined state of women during that time period.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does the yellow wallpaper itself act as a symbol of female oppression in the story?
  2. What role does the first-person narrative play in emphasizing the theme of female oppression?
  3. Compare and contrast the experiences of the woman trapped in the wallpaper with the narrator’s own struggles.

Suggested Essay Topics:

1. Analyze the role of the narrator’s husband in contributing to her oppression in “The Yellow Wallpaper”.2. Discuss the significance of the room in which the narrator is confined.
3. Explore the theme of madness in “The Yellow Wallpaper” and its connection to female oppression.4. How does the yellow wallpaper affect the narrator’s mental state throughout the story?
5. Compare and contrast the narrator’s changing perception of the yellow wallpaper with her changing mental state.6. Discuss the importance of the ending of “The Yellow Wallpaper” in relation to the theme of female oppression.

The Portrayal of Mental Illness and Madness in “The Yellow Wallpaper”

The Narrator’s Descent into Madness

The main character, known as the narrator, yearns for a sense of freedom and individuality. However, due to societal pressures and her husband John’s condescending attitude towards her, she is unable to express her desires effectively. As the story progresses, she becomes fixated on the yellow wallpaper in her room, seeing it as a living thing that provokes her thoughts and actions. This obsession ultimately leads to her descent into madness.

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The Wallpaper’s Symbolic Function

The yellow wallpaper serves as a symbol of the narrator’s deteriorating mental state. Initially, it is described as “repellant, almost revolting,” which mirrors the narrator’s feelings of being trapped and controlled by society. As her mental illness worsens, she starts to see patterns and images within the wallpaper, believing that a woman is trapped behind it. This perception reflects her own confinement and the hidden desires she longs to express.

Moreover, the wallpaper’s color, yellow, is significant as it represents both vitality and sickness. It symbolizes the narrator’s deteriorating mental health and the societal expectations that contribute to her unhappiness. The contrast between the vibrant hue and the disturbing pattern adds to the overall sense of unease and madness that permeates the narrative.

The Role of Society

“The Yellow Wallpaper” also critiques the societal treatment of mental illness and the dismissal of women’s voices. The narrator’s desires and concerns are consistently belittled and ignored by her husband and the society at large. Instead of receiving proper treatment and support, she is confined to a room and kept away from any stimulating experiences.

The wallpaper itself becomes a manifestation of the societal dismissal and blame placed on women suffering from mental illness. The narrator’s fixation on the wallpaper reflects her desperation for validation and understanding from a society that refuses to acknowledge her condition.

Comparison and Contrast

To understand the portrayal of mental illness and madness in “The Yellow Wallpaper” better, it can be compared and contrasted with other literary works that explore similar themes. Examples include Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” and Charlotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre.” The comparison can provide a deeper understanding of the unique aspects of Gilman’s work and how it contributes to the broader conversation on mental illness in literature.

Discussion and Essay Topics

If you’re looking for essay prompts or discussion topics related to the portrayal of mental illness and madness in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” here are a few ideas to explore:

  1. How does the confinement of the narrator contribute to her descent into madness?
  2. Compare and contrast the portrayal of mental illness in “The Yellow Wallpaper” with another work of your choice.
  3. Discuss the societal pressures and expectations placed on women in “The Yellow Wallpaper” and how they contribute to the narrator’s mental illness.
  4. Explore the significance of the yellow wallpaper as a symbol of mental illness and confinement in the story.
  5. Examine the role of the narrator’s husband, John, in her mental deterioration and the societal portrayal of mental illness.

The above prompts should give you a starting point for your research and analysis of “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Remember to support your ideas with quotes and examples from the text and other scholarly references.

Discussing the Role of Gender in “The Yellow Wallpaper”

The Role of Society and Gender Expectations

One of the most prominent themes in “The Yellow Wallpaper” is the narrator’s struggle against the expectations society places on her as a woman. The story takes place in a time when women were expected to adhere to strict gender roles and were often denied opportunities for self-expression and self-fulfillment.

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The narrator, who remains unnamed throughout the story, is treated as a patient by her husband John, who is also a physician. John’s approach to her mental health reflects the prevailing beliefs of the time, which viewed women as weak and hysterical. He prescribes rest and isolation as the cure for her perceived illness and forbids her from engaging in any intellectual or creative activity.

This gender imbalance is further highlighted by the contrast between the narrator’s desire to write and her inability to do so. She longs to express herself through her literary work, but John’s dismissive attitude towards her writing stifles her creative spirit and drives her to madness.

The Symbolic Function of the Yellow Wallpaper

“The Yellow Wallpaper” serves as both a literal and symbolic representation of the narrator’s confinement and oppression. The wallpaper, initially described as having “repellent, almost revolting, a smouldering unclean yellow” (62), becomes a way for the narrator to express her thoughts and desires.

As the story progresses, the narrator’s obsession with the wallpaper intensifies, leading her to believe that there is a woman trapped behind it. The yellow wallpaper comes to represent the societal constraints placed on women, as well as the narrator’s own mental deterioration. It symbolizes her entrapment within the confines of her gender and her struggle to break free.

Comparing “The Yellow Wallpaper” with Other Literary Works

In a literary analysis, it is essential to compare “The Yellow Wallpaper” with other works that explore similar themes or use similar literary devices. For example, one could compare the wallpaper’s symbolic function to the way the heart is depicted in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” both serving as visual representations of the characters’ inner turmoil.

Moreover, one could consider the effects of societal expectations on the mental health of female characters in other texts, such as “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin or “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood. This comparative analysis helps to situate “The Yellow Wallpaper” within a broader literary and cultural context and provides additional insights into the theme of gender.

Prompts for Discussion and Analysis

To guide your analysis of gender in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” consider the following questions and prompts:

  • How does the narrator’s confinement within the room and her husband’s control contribute to her mental deterioration?
  • Compare and contrast the narrator’s desire for self-expression with her inability to fulfill that desire.
  • Discuss the significance of the wallpaper’s changing patterns and the narrator’s interpretation of them.
  • Examine the role of other female characters in the story, such as Jennie and the imaginary woman behind the wallpaper.
  • What does the story suggest about the harmful effects of societal expectations on women’s mental health?

“The Yellow Wallpaper” presents a thought-provoking study of the role of gender in society and its impact on mental health. Through its vivid descriptions and analysis of the narrator’s descent into madness, the story raises important questions about the limitations placed on women during the time period in which it was written. By comparing it to other literary works and discussing its themes and symbols, readers can gain a deeper understanding of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s critique of the societal norms and expectations that shaped women’s lives.


What is the main theme of “The Yellow Wallpaper”?

The main theme of “The Yellow Wallpaper” is the oppression of women in the 19th century.

What is the significance of the yellow wallpaper in the story?

The yellow wallpaper in the story symbolizes the protagonist’s mental and emotional state and her captivity.

How does the author portray the protagonist’s descent into madness?

The author portrays the protagonist’s descent into madness through the vivid and increasingly disturbing descriptions of her obsession with the yellow wallpaper and her hallucinations.

What role does John, the protagonist’s husband, play in the story?

John represents the oppressive patriarchal society that confines and controls women during that time period. He disregards the protagonist’s feelings and treats her as an inferior.

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

The setting, specifically the confined and isolated room with the yellow wallpaper, mirrors the protagonist’s mental state and her growing sense of entrapment.

What is the main theme of “The Yellow Wallpaper”?

The main theme of “The Yellow Wallpaper” is the oppression of women and the detrimental effects of the constricting roles imposed upon them by society.

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.