The Yellow Wallpaper

shttefan-280960-unsplashThe Yellow Wallpaper  is a short story that has haunted me since my undergrad years. For a setting to still haunt me after 20 years can only mean that it is an extremely effective setting. Why would this setting, one that scares me, be my favorite? It’s compelling, it makes the reader think, and it makes the reader terrified of what is going on in the mind of the narrator.  The setting doesn’t only feel real and believable, it feels as if it’s actually alive.  The setting is not just a place where the action takes place, it IS the action, it’s an actual character. “And she is all the time trying to climb through. But nobody could climb through that pattern—it strangles so; I think that is why it has so many heads.” (Gilman)

There is a strong impact in studying the settings in the works we have studied in class; I now look for clues in the setting of a written piece, the setting isn’t just background, sometimes it is the main character.  There is always something more hiding there. In The Perks of Being a Wallflower, the tunnel represents freedom, in The Yellow Wallpaper the walls come alive and point to the narrator’s psychological distress by being hidden away in a room without much human contact.

As a writer, I realize how much weight the setting can have in a written work. It’s not something to be thought of last, it’s a meaningful part of the narration and should be handled as such. It can set up tension, signal romance, tell when the character is going insane, show if something tragic is about to happen. As I write, I need to look for ways to bring setting to life, whether that be through metaphor, symbolism, or even more. I will work harder to develop the settings of my writings, it is just as important as character development.


Works Cited

Gilman, Charlotte. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Project Gutenberg, 25, November 2008. Accessed 12, October 2017.



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