“I sometimes fancy that in my condition, if I had less opposition and more society and stimulus—but John says the very worst thing I can do is to think about my condition, and I confess it always makes me feel bad.” (758)
Analysis of Quotation #1: This early statement reveals the Narrator’s desire to think independently but belies her submission to her husband. Thematically, this quotation serves as an implicit criticism of nineteenth century women who would prefer to not think about their “condition” (i.e. place in society) rather than take action by asserting their place in “society” and seek “stimulus” through interaction with their intellectual peers.
“He says that with my imaginative power and habit of story-making, a nervous weakness like mine is sure to lead to all manner of excited fancies, and that I ought to use my will and good sense to check the tendency. So I try. I think sometimes that if I were only well enough to write a little it would relieve the press of ideas and rest me.” (760)
Analysis of Quotation #2 This statement reveals the essential difference in opinion between the Narrator and her physician/husband. He believes that her imagination and the desire to exercise it has created in his wife, and women in general, a certain weakness and tendency to hysteria which must be curbed. She, however, knows that only by engaging her imagination can she avoid the hysteria occasioned by the “press of ideas” seeking a creative outlet.
“I never saw so much expression in an inanimate thing before, and we all know how much expression they have! I used to lie awake as a child and get more entertainment and terror out of blank walls and plain furniture than most children could find in a toy-store.” (760)
Analysis of Quotation #3 The Narrator’s admission that she has always had an active imagination is less revealing than the manner in which she introduces the fancies of her childhood as paling in comparison to the “expression” of the wallpaper she is now observing. This not only serves to underscore the manner in which her physician/husband’s “rest” treatment is infantilizing her but the degree to which her mind is becoming fixated upon the wallpaper.
“John says if I don’t pick up faster he shall send me to Weir Mitchell in the fall. But I don’t want to go there at all. I had a friend who was in his hands once, and she says he is just like John and my brother, only more so!” (761)
Analysis of Quotation #4 This selection is noteworthy for the manner in which it refers to the actual physician who treated the author with nearly disastrous consequences. Because the story was written as a rebuke to Dr. Mitchell, this passage is more than simple narration; it is a direct message to the intended recipient. Gilman (perhaps the “friend” in the quotation) sent Dr. Mitchell a copy of the story in hopes it would cause him to give up the “rest” treatment. It failed to achieve that goal.
“I’m getting really fond of the room in spite of the wallpaper. Perhaps because of the wallpaper. It dwells on my mind so!” (761)
Analysis of Quotation #5 This marks a turning point in the Narrator’s journal; she persists in her assertion that the wallpaper is hideous but allows for the possibility that her fascination with it has become a source of enjoyment and comfort in her confinement. She recognizes that the wallpaper has become a focal point for her mind but fails to comprehend that it is because her mind has nothing of substance to ponder that the wallpaper has achieved such cognitive prominence.
“There are things in that wallpaper that nobody knows about but me, or ever will.” (762)
Analysis of Quotation #6 Here the Narrator, for the first time, reveals the extent to which she has incorporated the wallpaper into her own sense of self. She not only reveals her growing sense of discovery and wonder in the wallpaper but asserts her determination to remain its sole observer. This is the first inkling of the isolation derived paranoia that will eventually drive her insane.
“At night in any kind of light, in twilight, candlelight, lamplight, and worst of all by moonlight, it becomes bars! The outside pattern, I mean, and the woman behind it is as plain as can be.” (764)
Analysis of Quotation #7 Here the light of the moon, a powerful symbol of female power, reveals that the hideous wallpaper pattern is actually a cage holding a woman trapped in the sub-pattern. The Narrator’s imagination has fully succumbed to the allure of the wallpaper and is now firmly, “as plain as can be”, creating a new reality that will allow her to define her confinement and establish the steps necessary to effect her escape.
“I always lock the door when I creep by daylight. I can’t do it at night, for I know John would suspect something at once. And John is so queer now that I don’t want to irritate him. I wish he would take another room! Besides, I don’t want anybody to get that woman out at night but myself.” (766)
Analysis of Quotation #8 Here paranoia and fear combine to reveal the Narrator’s nearly complete submission to the needs of her imagination. While acknowledging that, like the woman in the pattern, she “creeps” because of fear of discovery by her physician/husband, the Narrator now believes that if she can keep the secret of the wallpaper to herself she will somehow succeed in subverting his goal. This is evidenced by her wish that her would “take another room” despite her earlier pleadings to do exactly the same herself.
“I don’t like to look out of the windows even—there are so many of those creeping women, and they creep so fast. I wonder if they all came out of that wallpaper as I did?” (767)
Analysis of Quotation #9 For the first time, the Narrator identifies herself as a woman from the wallpaper, thus revealing to the reader that her mental state is such that she can no longer accurately convey objective reality, only her subjective experience as a woman from the wallpaper forced to creep like the women she sees outside who lack the cover she welcomes in the confines of the room.
“‘I’ve got out at last,’ said I, ‘in spite of you and Jane. And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back!’ Now, why should that man have fainted? But he did, and right across my path by the wall, so that I had to creep over him every time!” (768)
Analysis of Quotation #10 Some critics have read this last passage to mean that the Narrator is named “Jane” and she now considers herself only in the third person. Others have taken it simply as a misprint for “Jennie” the Narrator’s well-intentioned sister-in-law. Regardless, her mental deterioration is such that she believes that now that the wallpaper is down, she is free. Moreover, she believes that the freedom to “creep” around the perimeter of the room is fullest measure of available freedom available. Her physician/husband, reduced to “that man” remains an impediment to her freedom but one easily surmounted by simply creeping over him with every circuit of the room.