Importance of Symbolism and Setting in The Yellow Wallpaper

2046 Words 9 Pages
Importance of Symbolism and Setting in The Yellow Wallpaper

In the disturbing novel, The Yellow Wallpaper, the setting in which the action takes place is extremely important. The author uses setting to focus the reader’s attention into the story in a gradual manner. Also, the manipulation of setting allows the author to subtly introduce symbols in the text. These symbols represent Gilman’s view on the status of women in the patriarchal society of the nineteenth century.

The story takes the form of a journal of the main character. Therefore, the reader’s view is limited to the impressions of a single character, Jane. Considering some background information on Gilman, one can easily draw the conclusion that the story is
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We learn from the first paragraphs that focusing on the scenery will help her forget the nervous depression which she has been diagnosed with: ""So, I will let it [her illness] alone and talk about the house"(947). The main character’s focus on the environment is the reason for which the reader gets plenty of information about the setting.

The text is very descriptive and loaded with symbols. The author takes the opportunity to relate elements of setting with symbols with meanings beyond the first reading’s impressions. The house that the characters rent for the summer as well as the surrounding scenery are introduced right from the beginning. It is an isolated house, situated "quite three miles from the village"(947); this location suggests an isolated environment. Because of its "colonial mansion"(946) look, and its age and state of degradation, of the house, a supernatural hypothesis is implied: the place is haunted by ghosts. This description also suggests stability, strength, power and control. It symbolizes the patriarchal oriented society of the author’s time. The image of a haunted house is curiously superimposed with light color elements of setting: a "delicious garden"(947), "velvet meadows"(950), "old-fashioned flowers, and bushes and gnarly trees"(948) suggest bright green. The room has "air and sunshine galore"(947), the garden is "large and shady"(947) and has "deep-shaded arbors"(948). The unclean yellow of the wallpaper is
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