Setting of The Yellow Wallpaper

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Who is Jane in The Yellow Wallpaper?

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:04 The Setting
  • 0:51 Why Does the Setting Matter?
  • 2:32 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
J.R. Hudspeth

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

Expert Contributor
Ginna Wilkerson

Ginna earned M.Ed. degrees in Curriculum and Development and Mental Health Counseling, followed by a Ph.D. in English. She has over 30 years of teaching experience.

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:

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Additional Activities

Setting of The Yellow Wallpaper

Further Research

1) Postpartum depression was not a recognized diagnosis at the time this novella was written. The contemporary reader most likely sees this story very differently than did readers in Gilman's time. Do a bit of research about the illness labeled "hysteria," which was a popular diagnosis for women who were non-conforming to traditional roles and rebelled against their subsequent confinement. Also read about the "rest cure," which is what the husband in this story is prescribing for his wife. How does this additional contextual knowledge affect your response to this narrative?

2) The narrator gets so involved with the wallpaper in the room that she sees a woman moving in the room with her. Who do you think this woman might be? Is she a "real" person? Is she a hallucination? Or is she a hidden aspect of the narrator's identity? Do some reading about Sigmund Freud's ideas of what makes up a individual's personality to add to your understanding.

3) Although postpartum depression would not have been the narrator's diagnosis at the time, the contemporary reader can see that this might be the case given the narrator's depression and reaction to the room in which she's confined. Read about postpartum depression and how the condition is usually treated today.

4) Modernist writer Virginia Woolf suffered from depression most of her adult life. Her true story is quite similar to what occurs with the narrator in The Yellow Wallpaper.

a) Read about Woolf and how she died. How is this scenario related to the story portrayed in the novel?

b) The movie The Hours depicts Woolf's experience of depression and her husband's attempt to help her through a "rest cure." Is it possible that John in the story really loves his wife and is simply misguided about what she needs?

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account