Setting of The Yellow Wallpaper

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  • 0:04 The Setting
  • 0:51 Why Does the Setting Matter?
  • 2:32 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: J.R. Hudspeth

Jackie has taught college English and Critical Thinking and has a Master's degree in English Rhetoric and Composition

Charlotte Perkins Gilman's 'The Yellow Wallpaper' takes place in a room with (as you might have guessed) yellow wallpaper on the walls. Why does this story take place in one room? Watch this video for a short explanation of the setting of ''The Yellow Wallpaper.''

The Setting

The Yellow Wallpaper takes place in a single room, and the yellow wallpaper in the title bothers the woman stuck inside the room. This unnamed woman is frustrated because, after having a child, she experiences something similar to post-partum depression, a mental illness that women sometimes develop after giving birth.

She wants to leave the room and spend more time outside, where she feels much less depressed. Her husband John, who is a doctor, thinks he knows better and disregards the protagonist's explanations of how she feels and what helps her to feel better. John forces his wife to stay in the little room covered with yellow wallpaper as treatment. Eventually, this treatment leads to the wife's mental illness worsening until, in a moment of sickness, she tears her way through the wallpaper and out of the room, much to the shock of John.

Why Does the Setting Matter?

Perkins Gilman's story is about the relationship between the narrator and her husband. The narrator's husband disregards his wife's feelings. He thinks that he knows more about her body and her needs than she does, even though she is clear about her needs when she says:

  • 'Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good.'

John ignores this and forces the narrator to stay in bed in the room with yellow wallpaper. The room becomes a prison for the narrator. She desperately wants to get outside to improve her health, but John does not allow her to leave the room. This makes John her jailer instead of her partner. In modern relationships, partners are expected to listen to and respect one another's viewpoints. In this relationship, the narrator points out that her husband sees no need to consider her needs when she asks:

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