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“Yellow Wallpaper” Reading Questions

September 17, 2011

During Reading

Try to trace any examples of the narrator’s deteriorating mind.  Find direct quotes/examples of:

  • the narrator’s loss of control over her thoughts
  • the narrator’s hallucinations
  • the narrator’s growing paranoia
  • the narrator’s obsessions with various ideas/things

After Reading (Always use textual evidence to support your answers)

  1. The narrator makes constant reference to the paper’s pattern. What do you think the pattern of the wallpaper symbolizes?
  2. How does the changing description of the wallpaper reflect the narrator’s changing character?
  3. Think about the structure and condition of the mansion. How is the mansion symbolic of something greater than itself?
  4. How does Gilman use changes in language (diction, tone) to affect the narrator’s shift from seeming sanity to madness?
  5. At one point the narrator refers to John…”because he is so wise and because he loves me so.” Do you feel John is wise and loving? Give specific examples from the text to support your views.
  6. Why must the woman in the wallpaper “creep” by daylight, and why must it be “humiliating” for her to do so?  What could the daylight symbolize?  How does her feeling of humiliation contradict the assumptions about women at the time?
  7. The narrator says, “Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good.  But what is one to do?” as well as “I cry at nothing, and cry most of the time…I determine for the thousandth time that I will follow that pointless pattern to some sort of a conclusion…The effort is getting to be greater than the relief…It is getting to be a great effort for me to think straight.” What feelings does the narrator describe?  Where might these feelings lead to if left unchecked?
  8. How does the story end? What inferences can you make about Gilman’s perspective on gender assumptions and their ultimate effects?

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