Charlotte Perkins Gilman's short story, "The Yellow Wallpaper," is a story about a new mother suffering from a temporary nervous depression. During the Victorian era recommended treatment was the Rest Cure. Her husband John a physician moves the family into an old colonial mansion in a secluded area. To ensure that she is able to rest John keeps his wife in an old nursery on the top floor of the house. As part of her cure she is not allowed to work, write, or visit with family and friends as this would be too tiring for her. During their three month stay at the house the narrator becomes increasingly depressed and eventually slips into insanity. .
In this story, Gilman uses symbolism to reveal some themes associated with "The Yellow Wallpaper." Gilman uses the symbolism of the yellow wallpaper itself to expose ideas regarding the themes of entrapment and oppression associated with Victorian gender roles as well as the relationship between creativity and mental health. It is obvious from the start that the narrator of "The Yellow Wallpaper" is oppressed by her husband, John. For instance, the narrator tells us she "wanted a room downstairs that opened to the piazza, but John would not hear of it (Gilman377)." Instead John put her in a nursery on the top floor with bars on the window, a nailed-down bed essentially isolating her from the rest of the household. According to Korb, since the narrator was brought up in a society where everything a man said was always correct and a woman's voice went unheard, she developed "a habit of deliberately misreading." and overlooking the oppression of "her surroundings." (Korb).
Rather than confronting the idea that John was being controlling, she abandoned her own ideas: "I think sometimes if I were only well enough to write a little it would relive the press of ideas and rest me (Gilman p379)," in order to support what John wants her to think: "but I find I get pretty tired when I try (Gilman p379).