The Yellow Wallpaper is overflowed with symbolism. Symbols are images that have a meaning beyond them selves in a short story, a symbol is a detail, a character, or an incident that has a meaning beyond its literal role in the narrative. Gilman uses symbols to tell her story of a woman's mental state of being diminishes throughout the story. The following paragraphs tell just some of the symbols and how I interpreted them, they could be read in many different ways.
The title itself, The Yellow Wallpaper, is symbolizing the role men play in a patriarchal society, where men are the more dominant sex, and how women are "trapped” in a life of male control. For instance, At night in any kind of light, in twilight, candlelight, lamplight, and worst of all moonlight, it becomes bars!”(Gilman 211) This shows how the narrator feels trapped by the paper. Another symbol that refers to the role women play is, "And she is all the time trying to climb through that pattern, it strangles so; I think that is why it has so many heads.”(Gilman 213) This is meaning that if a women tried to play a role in society she was just not taken seriously, or felt like trying to play a role was getting nowhere.
The way Gilman describes the wallpaper tells of what the narrator's mind is thinking, "and when you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide.”(Gillman 206) She doesn't think this on the conscious level but more on the unconscious level. When the narrator writes, "(The designs) destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions.”(Gillman 206) She is speaking of her state of mind subconsciously, the narrator is on the brink of losing her mind at this point. Gillman writes, "There is a recurrent spot where the pattern lolls like a broken neck and two bulbous eyes stare at you upside down. "(Gillman 207) She was explaining how the wallpaper is like a "watchdog” or a guard of
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