Analysis of characters in the yellow wallpaper

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1. Plot the course of the narrator's descent into madness.  Are there any significant turning points? 

From the very beginning of ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ the narrator’s isolation in her psychotic state is evident. ‘…people like John and I’.  We know the name of the narrator's husband (John), but not her own. She is nearly anonymous; her identity is John's wife.  ‘And what can one do?’ Gilman uses this noun to describe how the narrator disguises her autonomy and conveys the narrator’s helplessness and perceived inability to change her uncomfortable situation; the repetition of ‘one’ creates a haunting echo of anonymity and demonstrates a sense of conventional acquiescence.

Gilman uses exclamation marks to reveal the woman's psychotic, agitated, mental state. Along with questioning features of her surroundings, the woman also makes many exclamatory remarks. This questioning and exclaiming indicate the wide swings in her mental state. ‘but that would be asking too much of fate!’, ‘…I am sick!’

As the novel progresses, however, Gilman uses many linguistic and syntactic features to convey the changes in the narrator’s attitude. The use of first person reveals a dramatic change in the narrator’s identity and self –awareness at the point when the dominant text of her actions compromises her sanity and dooms her to madness.  The increased use of ‘I’ demonstrates a positive change in self-presentation precisely at the point when her actions dramatically compromise her sanity and condemn her to madness.

Other examples, particularly in the final paragraphs, affirm the narrator’s newly imagined self: ‘What is the matter?’ he cried…so that I had to creep over him every time’ John’s name seems conspicuously absent from these paragraphs. Repeatedly, the narrator substitues the nominative case for John’s name, for instance ‘he cried’ and ‘he did’. This effect works to distance the reader and the narrator from John and his authority, to which she once readily adhered, ‘that man’ and close of ‘They Yellow wallpaper’ which leaves the narrator creeping flamboyantly in the daylight as she desires.

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2. Does the narrator's creeping at the end of the story signal regression or rebirth? 

 The ambiguous ending of ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ simultaneously invites interpretations of liberation, defeat, and dubious victory. For instance, Gilman’s linguistic fusion that occurs between the narrator and the woman trapped behind the bars of the wallpaper; the narrator (‘I’) and the narrator’s double (‘she’) seem to fuse together (‘we’) and becoming one with her double allows the narrator to gain power and freedom. The narrator presents herself as ‘I’ on numerous occassions in the final section displaying her growing sense of self, power, and confidence ...

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