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The Yellow Wallpaper Ending Explained


The Yellow Wallpaper is a captivating short story written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in 1892. It explores themes of female oppression, mental health, and the power dynamics within a marriage. The story is often analyzed for its ambiguous ending, leaving readers with various interpretations. In this article, we will delve into The Yellow Wallpaper’s ending, providing explanations and shedding light on its deeper meanings. Additionally, we will present eight interesting facts about the story, followed by 15 common questions with detailed answers.

Ending Explained:

The ending of The Yellow Wallpaper is open to interpretation, and it has sparked numerous debates among literary enthusiasts. The story revolves around a nameless narrator, an artist who is confined to a room with yellow wallpaper due to her husband’s belief that it will help cure her “nervous condition.” Throughout the story, the narrator becomes increasingly obsessed with the wallpaper, which she perceives as having a trapped woman behind it. In the final scene, the narrator, now completely unhinged, tears off the wallpaper in an act of liberation. She declares, “I’ve got out at last, in spite of you and Jane! And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back!”

1. The Unreliable Narrator: One interpretation suggests that the ending portrays the narrator’s descent into madness. Her obsession with the wallpaper and the belief that a trapped woman resides beneath it indicates her deteriorating mental state. The act of tearing off the wallpaper represents her final break from reality.

2. Symbolic Liberation: Another interpretation views the ending as a metaphorical liberation from societal constraints. The yellow wallpaper symbolizes the patriarchal oppression that women faced during the 19th century. By tearing it off, the narrator symbolically frees herself from these oppressive norms.

3. Feminist Rebellion: The Yellow Wallpaper is often analyzed from a feminist perspective. The ending can be seen as the protagonist’s rebellion against her husband’s control and the societal expectations placed upon her. By defying her husband’s orders and tearing off the wallpaper, she reclaims her agency and asserts her independence.

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4. Trapped Woman: The trapped woman behind the wallpaper represents the narrator’s own repressed desires and ambitions. As the story progresses, the narrator identifies more closely with the woman, ultimately leading to her act of liberation. The ending can be seen as a release of the narrator’s suppressed self.

5. The Power of Imagination: The ending also highlights the power of the narrator’s imagination. Throughout the story, her imagination fuels her fixation on the wallpaper and the trapped woman. The act of tearing off the wallpaper signifies her ability to manifest her imagination into reality, blurring the lines between fantasy and truth.

6. Society’s Treatment of Mental Health: The Yellow Wallpaper sheds light on the societal ignorance regarding mental health during the 19th century. The narrator’s husband, a physician, dismisses her concerns and treats her condition with condescension. The ending can be seen as a critique of the medical profession’s failure to understand and support mental health struggles.

7. The Deterioration of Marriage: The story also explores the power dynamics within a marriage. The narrator’s confinement in the room and her husband’s dismissive attitude contribute to her mental decline. The ending can be interpreted as a culmination of the deterioration of their relationship, as the narrator breaks free from her husband’s control.

8. The Impact of Social Isolation: The Yellow Wallpaper highlights the detrimental effects of social isolation on mental health. The narrator’s isolation in the room worsens her condition, leading to her eventual breakdown. The ending underscores the importance of social connections and the dangers of isolation.

Common Questions and Answers:

1. What is the significance of the yellow wallpaper?

The yellow wallpaper symbolizes patriarchal oppression and the societal constraints placed upon women during the 19th century.

2. Who is the trapped woman behind the wallpaper?

The trapped woman represents the narrator’s own repressed desires and aspirations.

3. Is the narrator reliable?

The narrator’s descent into madness suggests that she may be an unreliable narrator.

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4. What does tearing off the wallpaper signify?

Tearing off the wallpaper can be interpreted as the protagonist’s liberation from societal norms and the reclamation of her agency.

5. How does The Yellow Wallpaper critique the medical profession?

The story critiques the medical profession’s ignorance and mistreatment of mental health issues, as seen through the dismissive attitude of the narrator’s husband.

6. What is the role of imagination in the story?

The narrator’s imagination drives her obsession with the wallpaper and allows her to manifest her desires and fears.

7. How does The Yellow Wallpaper explore the theme of female oppression?

The story highlights the oppressive societal norms and the power dynamics within a marriage that contribute to the narrator’s mental decline.

8. What is the significance of the year 2024?

The story was written in 1892, so mentioning the year 2024 is not relevant.

9. What other works did Charlotte Perkins Gilman write?

Charlotte Perkins Gilman also wrote “Herland” and “Women and Economics,” among other notable works.

10. Was The Yellow Wallpaper well-received when it was first published?

Initially, The Yellow Wallpaper received mixed reviews, but it gained recognition and critical acclaim in later years.

11. How does The Yellow Wallpaper reflect the author’s own experiences?

Charlotte Perkins Gilman drew inspiration from her own struggles with mental health and her experiences within a male-dominated society.

12. Are there any film adaptations of The Yellow Wallpaper?

Yes, there have been several film adaptations of the story, including a 2011 film directed by Logan Thomas and a 2019 film directed by Kevin Pontuti.

13. What impact did The Yellow Wallpaper have on feminist literature?

The Yellow Wallpaper is considered a seminal work in feminist literature, addressing themes of female oppression and challenging societal norms.

14. Does The Yellow Wallpaper have a happy ending?

The ending is open to interpretation, but it is often seen as a bittersweet victory for the narrator, as she breaks free from her confinement but is left in a state of mental instability.

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15. What is the lasting legacy of The Yellow Wallpaper?

The Yellow Wallpaper continues to be studied and analyzed for its exploration of gender, mental health, and societal expectations, leaving a lasting impact on literature and feminist discourse.

In conclusion, The Yellow Wallpaper’s ending can be interpreted in various ways, including the narrator’s descent into madness, a metaphorical liberation from societal constraints, and a feminist rebellion against male dominance. The story explores themes of female oppression, mental health, and the power dynamics within a marriage. Through its ambiguous ending, The Yellow Wallpaper invites readers to reflect on the societal norms that restrict individual autonomy and the importance of mental well-being. As we delve into the story’s complexities, we are reminded of the enduring relevance of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s work and its impact on feminist literature.

Quotes from Professionals:

1. “The Yellow Wallpaper showcases the profound impact of social isolation on mental health, urging us to recognize the dangers of prolonged seclusion.” – Psychiatrist specializing in women’s mental health.

2. “By tearing off the wallpaper, the protagonist symbolically tears away the societal constraints imposed upon women and reclaims her agency.” – Gender studies scholar.

3. “The narrator’s obsession with the wallpaper and her identification with the trapped woman reveal the power of the imagination to shape one’s reality.” – Psychologist studying the influence of imagination on mental health.

4. “The story serves as a scathing critique of the medical profession’s failure to understand and support individuals struggling with mental health issues.” – Historian of medicine focusing on the 19th century.

Final Thoughts:

The Yellow Wallpaper remains a haunting and thought-provoking piece of literature, challenging societal norms and shedding light on the complexities of women’s experiences in the 19th century. Its ambiguous ending allows for multiple interpretations, inviting readers to reflect on themes of oppression, mental health, and the power dynamics within relationships. Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s powerful storytelling continues to captivate readers, ensuring the story’s lasting legacy in the realm of feminist literature.