The Fourth of July holiday has just ended and their company – “Mother and Nellie and the children” – have departed. The Narrator is very tired though Jennie does all the housekeeping now. John has mentioned that if the Narrator’s condition does not improve faster he will send her to Weir Mitchell, a doctor whom the Narrator characterizes as being like her brother and John only more extreme in his methods. She feels increasingly sensitive and less inclined to perform any action; moreover, she spends a great deal of time alone crying. Her days are occupied with walks in the garden or along the lane, sitting on the rose covered porch and, increasingly, pondering the wallpaper. She lies in her bed, which she believes is nailed to the floor, and follows the pattern around the room with her eyes. After a thousand repetitions she has determined that the pattern is completely random. She describes the pattern as a “debased Romanesque with delirium tremens” or like a quantity of “wallowing sea-weeds in full chase.” Only in one area of the room, when the fading sun shines directly upon it, can the Narrator determine a common center but looking at it gives her a sense of vertigo – as though she were being sucked into it. It makes her tired.
The Narrator pleads exhaustion and concludes the entry after reiterating her belief that writing helps her. It is becoming increasingly difficult, however, to summon the strength.
Analysis – Entry Three
This entry chronicles the Narrator teetering on the edge of sanity. With her sister-in-law now fully in charge of the house, the Narrator is left with nothing to occupy her intellect no need to exert herself physically. Ironically, as the basis of her husband/physician’s prescribed method of treatment this state of affairs only serves to further unnerve the Narrator and increases her reliance upon her imagination as a source of comfort.
The wallpaper continues to repulse the narrator’s aesthetic sensibilities even as its mysteries provide a focus for her imagination. The juxtaposition of the sole point of focus she perceives in the pattern with a spinning, unsettling feeling underscores her sense of being on the precipice of her own sanity.
Weir Mitchell, the doctor referenced in this section, was the physician who treated Gilman’s own bout of nervous depression after the birth of her daughter. Using the same methods outlined in this story – isolation, rest and complete removal of stimulation – Mitchell’s treatment nearly drove Gilman completely insane but she escaped his care and fled west leaving her husband and daughter behind. This story was conceived as a rebuke against Mitchell and his method in hope that he might abandon it.