The Yellow Wallpaper

The Yellow Wallpaper Summary and Analysis of Part 5

The narrator finds life more exciting now because of the wallpaper. Her health improves, and she is calmer, all because of the stimulation provided by the wallpaper; finally she has something to look forward to. Still, she does not tell John that her improving health is due to the wallpaper for fear he would laugh or take her away. She does not want to leave until she has "found it out," and thinks that the remaining week of their vacation will be enough to do so.

Amazed at how much better she feels, the narrator spends most of the daytime sleeping so that she can watch the developments in the wallpaper by night. Every day, new patterns appear in the wallpaper, and the narrator can barely keep track of them. She begins to notice that the wallpaper has its own smell -- a subtle but enduring odor -- that creeps over the entire house and gets in her hair. The "yellow smell" was initially disturbing, but now she is used to it. The narrator also discovers a mark low down on the wall that streaks around the entire room as if it had been rubbed in repeatedly. She wonders why it is there and who did it.

Finally, the narrator has discovered why the wallpaper seems to shake at night: the woman in the wallpaper seizes the bars of the pattern and shakes them as she tries to climb through. Then narrator is not sure if it is only one woman in the wallpaper's pattern crawling around fast, or if there are many women. In the bright spots she is still, and in the darker spots, she shakes the bars of the pattern and tries to climb through. But no one can get through the pattern, which has strangled so many women's heads.

The narrator believes she sees the wallpaper woman outside in the daylight and hiding when others come. She is certain that it is the same woman from behind the wallpaper because of the “creeping,” something that most women would never do in daylight. The narrator acknowledges that it must be extremely humiliating to be caught creeping in the daylight; she only creeps during the day when the door is locked and John is gone.

The narrator has only two days left to remove the "top pattern" of the wallpaper off "from the other one." She determines to try and do it, little by little. John and Jennie are growing suspicious of her, and the narrator hears John asking Jennie a series of professional questions about her. Although the narrator is disconcerted by John’s strange behavior, she decides that anyone would start to act oddly after sleeping under the yellow wallpaper for three months.


The narrator insists that there is something to be "found...out" in the wallpaper. She reinforces the idea of the wallpaper as holding a tangible meaning she can unlock, and Gilman may as well be telling the reader to do the same with "The Yellow Wallpaper." Both the narrator and the reader try to "peel off" the top pattern of the wallpaper and the story, respectively, to uncover the deeper meaning below.

It is becoming clearer that the woman in the wallpaper represents feminine imprisonment. In her domesticated prison of the wallpaper, she stays subdued and still in bright spots but shakes the "bars" in darker spots. In another allusion to the sunlight/moonlight motif, Gilman associates brightness with the rigidity and regularity of male oppression, and darkness with feminine liberation.

The diffusion of the wallpaper's smell throughout the house symbolizes how the wallpaper is infecting the narrator's mind. She is unable to quantify the odor as anything other than a “yellow smell”; even her powers of observation and imagination have transformed to revolve around the yellow wallpaper. In previous sections, the narrator has been defined entirely by John: as his wife, patient, and property. Here, Gilman suggests that John has been replaced, and the yellow wallpaper now wholly defines the narrator.

As her narrative delivery grows more chaotic and staccato, the narrator identifies more strongly with the woman in the wallpaper. Confusingly, when discussing the woman's habit of "creeping" about outside, the narrator says, "I always lock the door when I creep by daylight." She speaks as if she, and not the woman, is the one doing the creeping.

The narrator is also growing increasingly paranoid and suspicious about John and Jennie. She does not like the way that John is looking at her, and she resents his authoritative questions to Jennie about her. She no longer believes that he is actually loving and kind; instead, she concludes that he is only “pretending” to be loving and kind in an effort to manipulate her. Still, the narrator argues that John cannot be held responsible for his behavior. The influence of the yellow wallpaper has transformed both Jennie and John, and the narrator pities their preoccupation with it.

Clearly, the narrator’s sense of reality has become completely warped. No longer recognizing herself as ill, she decides that John and Jennie are the ones being adversely affected by the wallpaper. Moreover, she marks her own behavior as normal by declaring that she only has an “interest” in the wallpaper, nothing more. The narrator seizes control of the situation by placing herself in an authoritative position, capable of judging Jennie and John for herself.

The strange mark around the bottom of the wall foreshadows an action the narrator will take at the end of the story. At this point, the narrator is still unable to recognize it for what it is, a fact that again points to her increasing loss of sanity.