Psychoanalytical Critique of The Yellow Wallpaper

Updated on March 4, 2012


Charlotte Perkins Gilman immerses us into the psyche of a young wife and mother who is powerless in her peril in which no one understands. The Yellow Wallpaper is a first person view of what insanity and disconnection can look like. From psychoanalytic perspective one must consider the psyche in direct correlation to the ability and functioning of the body. We will look at the author and the narrator as one psyche. Exploration of different principles of psychology from Freud’s id analysis to Jung’s archetypal patterns is necessary. We will probe into the author and this character in a way that maybe with an understanding and an alliance maybe we can gain new knowledge about ourselves in the process.

The Story

Allow us to discuss some key components of the story so we may look back on them throughout. John and our lady moved to the country to simply deal with her illness. Making assumptions from what the main character gives, she is unable to care for her new child, and she has slipped into an emotional fall out. Call it what you like, postpartum depression, psychosis or delusional conditions; she is in a dangerous place. She begins to write again, and this is not what the people in her life want her to do. What happened for her to be locked up? She is taking fish oils, phosphates, exercise, vitamins. Her husband does not understand; but he is doing the best he can, except just be with her. Then she meets the wallpaper and slips into delusion. Charlotte gives the reader this beautiful compilation of words to describe the characters intense primordial thoughts of the wallpaper. There establishes connection. She is on a 90 day retreat for her wellness and she delves further into the spiral of the complexity of this two sided design. She feels bad, she can not care for her sweet baby. She also gives us indication that her social status is a factor, with her husband being a doctor and all. She has been removed from her duties and home for some good reason. She can’t be with the baby. She has been locked in a room. Although there is aesthetic aspect to her little vacation, she is spiraling. She is a writer by trade. Charlotte tells us, “It is so discouraging not to have any advice and companionship about my work.” They want her to stop writing and her pen mocks her. Then she delves into her obsession do to isolation and becomes this woman, all these women, who haunt her from behind the paper. The rope was so they couldn’t put her back for what one would think and I think her name was Jane…

One Psyche

Let us talk about Ms Charlotte Perkins Gilman. According to the text, she was a well educated, no nonsense gal who “lost it” after a pregnancy in the late 19th century. Our society is greatly aware of this condition due to knowledge of incidences and the ability to communicate via mass media and the internet. In our culture today, these things are discussed and we, like it or not, are informed of the tragedies in the world. Unlike we were 150 years ago. Charlotte got away from her marriage and moved away. She became a well known writer and feminist. The fact that she took her own life before an illness could says something about her character as a person and not just as a woman. The author being so strong and the character was so weak and consumed by her condition. She was locked up and she was a grown woman. Maybe she could of got better another way? Madness is easily acquired but not so easy to rid. Charlotte is this woman in another scenario. The thoughts of one woman, in the thoughts of another woman put down on paper for the world to see.

Jung vs. Freud

If we tap into the information given with Freud’s ideas. Our character is spiraling into id tendencies and primal thought. That there is a sexual factor present and a potential for aggression. That societal conditions are the order and there is constant conflict between ones self and societal obligations. To some extent these things are all true of everyone at some point in their lives. The wallpaper lady most likely has sex issues and obviously she has aggressive thoughts. She is bound to her husband and child. She is no doubt embarrassed at her condition and she has duties that she is neglecting. This would drive most utterly crazy. Let us reflect on the women in the news that kill their children. Many suffered from delusions and postpartum chemical imbalances.

From the ideals of Jung, archetypal examples may help us understand. The is a universal language through expression and experiences. There lies a pattern and probable outcomes. If we look at the main archetypes outlined by Jung, each individual has four. The Self, the Shadow, the Animus or Anima and the Persona. There are also cultural archetypes, eg. The hero, the martyr, the virgin, mother, crone; what ever your tastes. Most archetypes are an example of a collective unconscious. Jung’s primary contribution was an in individualistic approach and spiritual experience was essential for our well being. In comparison to this written piece of history there lies a collective unconscious of women ravaged by patriarchal society, women victim to societal obligations and chance of fortune. The archetypal examples are plentiful so we have to narrow it down. I see a failed heroine or a shining example for the rest of us. She embodies a struggle for freedom, like Joan of Arc driven by thoughts and visions. Even if the outcome is bad, the outcome might still be good.


After analyzing and attempting to interpret a fanatics stammering, I feel tired yet relieved. That the fanatic stammering that I speak of, were someone else’s and not my own. At least for a little while.

John is right. She could of fought harder. Yet then, how would Charlotte have known how it could of ended up?


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    • profile image

      big boss 989 

      5 months ago

      calm down albert

    • profile image

      Albert Ramirez 

      4 years ago

      She could HAVE fought harder, not she could OF.


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