Literary Devices in The Yellow Wallpaper

Gilman creates a sense of mystery in this story by narrating it through an unreliable narrator. Gilman reveals the character’s personality through a series of journal entries and symbols. The narrator personifies the wallpaper in her room and begins to see it as a living entity. It becomes a symbol of changes in her mental state throughout the story. It represents not only the deterioration of her mind but also her husband’s oppressive control over her life. In the midst of oppression and insanity, the narrator’s ability to tell her own story through these journal entries represents the way in which she reclaims her power through self-expression. However, because of the erratic nature of these entries, the woman’s ability to write demonstrates the story’s darker theme: the only freedom and power she can have within her oppressed life is escaping into insanity.

Literary Devices Examples in The Yellow Wallpaper:

The Yellow Wallpaper 2

"It was nursery first and then playroom and gymnasium, I should judge; for the windows are barred for little children..."   (The Yellow Wallpaper)

Notice how Gilman sets her story in a former nursery in order to emphasize the infantilization of the narrator by her husband, John--who chooses this room for her against her will--while the barred windows evoke a sinister sense of imprisonment and isolation.

"it sticketh closer than a brother..."   (The Yellow Wallpaper)

Notice how Gilman begins to personify the wallpaper through her use of a saying drawn from the King James Bible: “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).