Time and physical setting

The story “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman was published in 1899, and it presents a realistic account of events and social relationships of the 19th century.

Numerous passages in the text are devoted to physical setting elements, and many of them are key to the action and symbolic meanings of the text. The action takes places in an isolated mansion, in a seemingly picturesque location:

The most beautiful place! It is quite alone, standing well back from the road, quite three miles from the village. It makes me think of English places that you read about, for there are hedges and walls and gates that lock, and lots of separate little houses for the gardeners and people. (p. 4, ll. 11-15)

The isolation of the house becomes symbolic of the narrator’s own isolation from society. Furthermore, the locks and window bars of the house reflect her feeling of confinement in her life:

It is a big, airy room, the whole floor nearly, with windows that look all ways, and air and sunshine galore. It was nursery first and then playroom and gymnasium, I should judge; for the windows are barred for little children, and there are rings and things in the walls. (p. 5, ll. 3-7)

The narrator spends most of the time in the old nursery which her husband decides is the best place for her. However, the window bars suggest restrictions and prevent any kind of escape. They allow the narrator to see what’s happening outside but not to participate in it. As such,...

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