The Yellow Wallpaper CommonLit Answers

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  • 12th Grade
  • Lexile: 910

Source: The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Assessment Answers

QuestionAnswer
PART A: Which of the following best summarizes a central idea of the text?Refusing to address an issue is not the same thing
as curing it.
PART B: Which of the following passages best supports the answer to Part A?Paragraph 35
PART A: Which of the following statements best describes the relationship between the narrator and John?As both husband and physician, John is very paternalistic when it comes to his wife, the narrator, treating her like a child.
PART B: Which of the following quotes best supports the answer to Part A?“He said we came here solely on my account, that I was to have perfect rest and all the air I could get.” (Paragraph 31)
How does the narrator’s room inform both her character and plot?The room is a former nursery with bars on its windows, emphasizing her treatment as a child/prisoner and thus the eventual break from her identity as a sane adult woman.
How does the story’s narrative form contribute to the development of the narrator’s point of view?Intimate Insight: The first-person perspective provides intimate access to the narrator’s thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. It allows readers to experience her mental state directly, including her fears, obsessions, and gradual descent into madness. This deep level of personal insight helps the reader empathize with her situation and understand her subjective experience.
Unreliable Narration: As the story progresses, the reliability of the narrator’s perspective becomes increasingly questionable. Her mental state deteriorates, and the narrative reflects this instability. This unreliability adds to the story’s tension and complexity, as the reader must navigate between what is real and what is a product of the narrator’s mind.
Expression of Repression: The diary format is a vehicle for the narrator’s expression in a situation where her voice is otherwise suppressed. It becomes a space for her to articulate thoughts and feelings that she cannot express openly in her controlled and repressive environment. This hidden form of self-expression underscores the themes of confinement and the struggle for personal freedom.
Sense of Urgency and Immediacy: The narrative unfolds in real time, with the narrator documenting her experiences as they happen. This immediacy creates a sense of urgency and helps build suspense, as the reader is taken along on the narrator’s journey without knowing where it will lead.
Symbolism and Themes: The journal entries become increasingly focused on the yellow wallpaper, symbolizing the narrator’s growing obsession and mental breakdown. This focus mirrors broader themes of the story, such as the constraints placed on women in society and the damaging effects of these constraints on individual freedom and mental health.
What is the author’s likely purpose for the narrator’s lengthy and changing descriptions of the wallpaper?To reflect the narrator’s gradual descent into insanity.
Throughout the story the narrator uses the words “creep” and “creeping” to describe the wallpaper figure’s movements. What does this word choice suggest about the narrator?The narrator’s use of the words “creep” and “creeping” to describe the wallpaper figure’s movements suggests several things about her character and state of mind:
Increasing Paranoia and Anxiety: The choice of these words, which often have unsettling or sinister connotations, indicates the narrator’s growing sense of paranoia and anxiety. As she becomes more obsessed with the wallpaper, her language reflects her heightened emotional and mental distress.
Identification with the Wallpaper Figure: The use of “creep” and “creeping” can also suggest a subconscious identification with the figure in the wallpaper. As the story progresses, the narrator increasingly sees herself in the figure that is trapped and trying to escape, which mirrors her own feelings of being trapped in her situation and her desire for freedom.
Projection of Her Own Restlessness: The terms could also reflect the narrator’s own feelings of restlessness and her desire to escape her confined and controlled life. She is physically and mentally restricted in her room, and her use of these terms might be a projection of her own urge to “creep” away from her oppressive circumstances.
Subtle Rebellion: The creeping movement can be seen as a form of subtle rebellion. In a situation where overt action is impossible, the act of creeping — slow, quiet, and unnoticeable — might symbolize the narrator’s only means of asserting some form of agency or resistance.
Deteriorating Mental State: The repetitive and obsessive focus on these specific words also highlights the narrator’s deteriorating mental state. It underscores her fixation and descent into madness, as she becomes consumed by the patterns and perceived movements in the wallpaper.
By the end of the story, the narrator is convinced that:She is the woman living in and freed from the wallpaper.

What effect does the resolution have on the overall meaning of the passage?

The resolution of “The Yellow Wallpaper,” where the narrator identifies herself as the woman in the wallpaper and believes she has been freed, has a profound effect on the overall meaning of the passage:

  1. Critique of Treatment of Women’s Mental Health: The resolution highlights the story’s critique of the 19th-century treatment of women’s mental health. The rest cure prescribed to the narrator, which involves isolation and inactivity, is shown to be not just ineffective but actively harmful.
    This outcome serves as a commentary on the broader societal and medical practices of the time, which often dismissed or misunderstood women’s mental health needs.
  2. Exploration of Female Oppression: The story and its resolution emphasize the theme of female oppression. The narrator’s mental breakdown can be seen as a direct result of the societal constraints placed on her, both as a woman and as a patient. Her perceived liberation at the end, although a product of her insanity, symbolizes a tragic and ironic escape from these constraints.
  3. Representation of Mental Illness: The resolution provides a stark portrayal of mental illness and the descent into madness. It challenges the reader to consider the line between reality and perception, especially as it pertains to mental health. The story invites empathy for the narrator’s plight, while also presenting the complexities and challenges of understanding and treating mental illness.
  4. Symbolism of the Wallpaper: The wallpaper itself, and the narrator’s final act of tearing it down, becomes a powerful symbol of struggle against and liberation from oppressive forces. While the narrator’s liberation is ultimately a delusion, it underscores her desperate need for agency and self-expression, themes that resonate throughout the story.
  5. Impact on the Reader: The unsettling and ambiguous ending leaves a lasting impact on the reader. It forces a reflection on the roles and treatment of women, the understanding of mental health, and the consequences of societal norms and expectations. The resolution turns the story into a powerful statement on these issues.

The resolution of “The Yellow Wallpaper” reinforces the story’s themes of female oppression, the inadequacies of mental health treatment in the 19th century, and the struggle for personal autonomy.

It leaves the reader with a profound sense of the psychological and societal pressures that can lead to mental breakdown, especially in the context of rigid gender roles and expectations.

OR

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I’d say the ending, where the narrator believes she’s the woman in the wallpaper and has freed herself, really makes you think about what the whole story is trying to say. It’s like the story is showing us how the treatment she got for her mental health, which was basically being told to rest and do nothing, didn’t help her at all. In fact, it made her worse.

This is a big shout-out to how back then (and sometimes even now), people didn’t really get how to treat mental health issues, especially for women.

Also, the ending is super important for the theme of how women were treated and seen in society. The narrator is stuck in a room, with nothing to do, and no one really listening to her. It’s like she’s trapped not just in the room, but by the expectations and rules of what a woman should be like.

When she tears down the wallpaper, it’s as if she’s trying to break free from all that, even though, in reality, she’s kind of lost it. It’s super ironic because her ‘freedom’ comes at the cost of her sanity.

The wallpaper itself is like a symbol of all the stuff she’s struggling against. By the end, when she’s ripped it all off and thinks she’s the woman who was trapped in it, it’s like she’s saying she’s finally free from all the things holding her back. But it’s a twisted kind of freedom because she’s not really in her right mind.

So, the ending really hits home the message of the story about how women were treated, how mental health was misunderstood, and how trying to fit into what society expects can really mess with a person’s head. It’s a pretty deep and kind of dark way to end the story, but it definitely makes you think about these issues.

Discussion Answers

Why do you think people in this period discouraged women from writing? Explain your answer.

Back in the time period of “The Yellow Wallpaper,” which is the late 19th century, there were a lot of stereotypes and cultural norms that discouraged women from writing or engaging in intellectual pursuits in general. Here are a few reasons why this was the case:

  1. Gender Roles and Stereotypes: During this time, society had strict ideas about gender roles. Women were expected to focus on homemaking and raising children rather than pursuing their own careers or intellectual interests. Writing was seen as a serious intellectual endeavor, more suited to men. Women who wrote or engaged in similar activities were often viewed as neglecting their ‘natural’ duties.
  2. Limited Education for Women: Women had less access to education than men, particularly higher education. This limited their opportunities to develop writing skills or to be taken seriously in intellectual circles. Education for women was often focused on domestic skills rather than academic or creative subjects.
  3. Fear of Female Empowerment: There was a fear that allowing women to engage in intellectual pursuits like writing could lead to empowerment and challenge the status quo of male dominance. Writing gives a voice and a platform; it allows for expressing ideas and opinions, something that could threaten the existing power dynamics.
  4. Medical Misconceptions: There were also misconceptions about women’s health. It was believed that intellectual activity could be physically harmful to women, affecting their reproductive health or causing hysteria and other mental illnesses. The narrator in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” for example, is discouraged from writing as part of her ‘treatment’.
  5. Control over Women’s Voices: By discouraging women from writing, society effectively controlled women’s voices and ensured that the dominant narratives and perspectives remained male. This suppression extended to many areas of life, keeping women in a subordinate position.

The discouragement of women from writing in this period was rooted in deeply entrenched gender roles and stereotypes, limited educational opportunities for women, fears of female empowerment, misconceptions about women’s health, and a desire to maintain control over women’s voices and roles in society.


Consider the restrictions the narrator faces throughout the story. What was most harmful to the narrator’s sanity? Explain your answer.

Considering the restrictions faced by the narrator in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the most harmful to her sanity was the enforced idleness and isolation as part of her treatment, known as the “rest cure.” Here’s why this was particularly damaging:

  1. Lack of Mental Stimulation: The narrator is forbidden from engaging in any intellectual activities, including writing, which was her passion and a source of comfort. This enforced idleness deprives her of a healthy outlet for her thoughts and creativity, leading to an internal buildup of frustration and anxiety.
  2. Isolation from Society: The narrator is isolated in a room, away from social interactions and the outside world. This isolation exacerbates her feelings of loneliness and helplessness. Humans are social beings, and such prolonged isolation can have severe negative effects on mental health.
  3. Loss of Autonomy: The treatment imposed on her by her husband and brother, both physicians, leaves her with no control over her daily life. This loss of autonomy is profoundly demoralizing and contributes to her feeling of being trapped, both physically and mentally.
  4. Invalidation of Feelings and Opinions: Throughout the story, the narrator’s concerns and feelings are dismissed by her husband. This constant invalidation makes her doubt her own perceptions and feelings, which is psychologically damaging and contributes to her deteriorating mental state.
  5. Physical Confinement: Being confined to a single room with the disturbing yellow wallpaper deeply affects her psyche. The room and the wallpaper become obsessions for her, partly because she has nothing else to focus on. The wallpaper, in particular, becomes a projection of her mental state.
  6. Gender-Based Oppression: The treatment also reflects broader societal restrictions on women. The narrator’s experience symbolizes the oppression of women during this time, further contributing to her sense of powerlessness.

In the context of this story, what did it mean to be a woman in 19th century America?

In the context of “The Yellow Wallpaper” and 19th century America, being a woman typically meant adhering to strict societal norms and expectations, which often limited women’s roles and freedoms. The story reflects several aspects of these societal attitudes:

  1. Domesticity as a Primary Role: Women were primarily seen as caretakers of the home and family. Their main duties were believed to be nurturing children, supporting their husbands, and maintaining the household. Personal ambitions, especially in professional or creative fields, were often discouraged.
  2. Limited Access to Education and Professional Life: Women had limited access to higher education and were generally excluded from professional life. There were strong societal beliefs that intellectual pursuits were unsuitable for women and could even be harmful to their health.
  3. Lack of Autonomy: Women had little autonomy, both in public and private life. Decisions about their health, finances, and daily activities were often made by male relatives or husbands. The idea of women as dependent and needing guidance was prevalent.
  4. Medical Misconceptions about Women’s Health: There were many misconceptions about women’s physical and mental health. Medical practices like the “rest cure,” depicted in the story, were based on the idea that women were fragile and prone to hysteria and other nervous conditions. Women’s health complaints were often dismissed or attributed to their supposed weak nature.
  5. Social Expectations of Decorum and Submission: Women were expected to be demure, modest, and submissive. Assertiveness, ambition, and strong opinions were often frowned upon. The ideal woman was one who conformed to these societal expectations.
  6. Mental Health Stigma: Mental health issues in women were often misunderstood and mistreated. As in the story, symptoms of psychological distress were sometimes attributed to women’s inherent nature or their deviation from their traditional roles.

Being a woman in 19th century America, as depicted in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” meant navigating a world with limited freedoms, strict gender roles, and societal expectations that prioritized domesticity and submission over personal ambition, intellectual growth, and autonomy.

The story is a critique of these norms and their damaging effects on women’s mental and emotional well-being.


In your opinion, are the themes in this story still relevant today?

In my opinion, the themes in “The Yellow Wallpaper” are indeed still relevant today, though the context might have changed somewhat. Here’s why:

  1. Mental Health Awareness: The story highlights the importance of understanding and properly treating mental health issues. Today, there’s a growing awareness about mental health, but stigmas and misunderstandings still exist. The story reminds us of the need for empathy and appropriate treatment.
  2. Gender Roles and Expectations: While there has been significant progress in gender equality, the story’s exploration of restrictive gender roles remains pertinent. Societal expectations about what it means to be a woman, or a man, can still be limiting and can impact mental health.
  3. Autonomy in Healthcare: The narrator’s lack of agency in her treatment is a critical issue. Today, patient autonomy and informed consent are fundamental in healthcare, but the struggle to be heard and taken seriously, especially in the case of women’s health, is an ongoing issue.
  4. Creative Expression and Mental Health: The story links creative expression to mental well-being. In contemporary times, the therapeutic value of creative outlets in managing mental health is increasingly recognized.
  5. Isolation and Its Effects: The narrator’s isolation exacerbates her condition. Today, issues like social isolation, especially during events like the COVID-19 pandemic, have highlighted how critical social interaction is to mental health.
  6. Feminism and Women’s Rights: The story is a feminist text that critiques the patriarchal society of its time. The struggle for gender equality and women’s rights continues in various forms across the globe.

In conclusion, the themes of “The Yellow Wallpaper” remain relevant as they continue to resonate with current issues in mental health, gender roles, healthcare autonomy, and the importance of creative expression.

The story serves as a reminder of how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go in these areas.

You Might Be Interested:
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Test Answers

QuestionAnswer
How does the narrator find the house?Strange
Why are the narrator and her husband at the estate?The narrator is sick and they have traveled there so that she may rest
What is the relationship like between John and the narrator?The narrator resents John’s control over her, but she remains silent
Which of the following best describes the wallpaper in the narrators room/nursery?Awful
John thinks his wife’s condition…Is without a cause and not very serious
How is the room beginning to affect the narrator?The room is damaged and unwelcoming, and she is starting to see strange shapes in the wallpaper
The narrator’s condition…Seems to be weaseling as the becomes more depressed
How does the narrator now view the wallpaper?She has come to appreciate its confusing details as a distraction
What does this section seem to suggest about the narrator’s condition?It started soon after the baby was born, and is worsening under her husband’s rest cure
What does the narrator see in the wallpaper?See sees a woman trapped and creeping around it
How does John react to the narrator’s plea?He treats it like a childish fancy and makes her feel like she can’t tell him anything
What is unique about the wallpaper, according to the narrator’s discovery?It changes patterns based on the lighting
Why is the narrator so protective of the wallpaper?The narrator believes the wallpaper has been helping her improve
How has the supposed smell of the wallpaper affect the narrator?It seems to haunt her, suggesting that the smell is actually on her
Why does the figure likely shake the wallpaper?Because she wants to escape the pattern
What does the narrator’s new discover with the wallpaper suggest about her?She sees the wallpaper woman escape in the day to go outside, suggesting her hallucinations are getting worse
Which of the following best describe the narrator’s current state, in regards to the wallpaper?Frenzied and paranoid
The narrator now believes…That she was and is the creeping woman trapped in the wallpaper
By the end of the story, the narrator…Has lost her mind from being kept in the room for so long

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Dr. Evelyn Wordsworth
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Dr. Evelyn Wordsworth is a seasoned linguist and literacy educator with over 7 years of experience in the field. Holding a Ph.D. in Linguistics from the prestigious Harvard University, Evelyn has dedicated her career to exploring the intricacies of language acquisition and promoting literacy among diverse learner populations.

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