Analysis Pages

Simile in The Yellow Wallpaper

Throughout the short story, the narrator becomes obsessed with observing the yellow wallpaper in her room. She begins to see the wallpaper distort and change, and the frequent use of similes demonstrates her ever-changing vision. As she glances at the pattern of the wallpaper, she notices that it billows like seaweed one moment and knocks her down the next. Similes help demonstrate how the wallpaper takes hold of the narrator and increasingly torments her.

Simile Examples in The Yellow Wallpaper:

The Yellow Wallpaper

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"If you can imagine a toadstool in joints, an interminable string of toadstools, budding and sprouting in endless convolutions..."   (The Yellow Wallpaper)

The word “toadstool” is another word for poisonous mushroom. Here, the narrator asks readers to “imagine a toadstool in joints”—many mushrooms growing together to form a labyrinth of fungi. The simile likens the pattern on the wallpaper to the serpentine winding of a string of mushrooms.

"It slaps you in the face, knocks you down, and tramples upon you. It is like a bad dream...."   (The Yellow Wallpaper)

Through a combination of second-person narration, personification, and simile, the narrator conveys how the wallpaper tortures her. With the second-person point of view, readers can understand firsthand the sort of mental unhinging the narrator experiences at each glance. Through personification, readers can grasp the figurative violence the wallpaper inflicts on the narrator as it “slaps,” “knocks,” and “tramples” her. Finally, the last phrase—the simile that likens the wallpaper to a nightmare—demonstrates the anxiety and unease it causes her.

"like a lot of wallowing seaweeds in full chase. ..."   (The Yellow Wallpaper)

Here, the speaker uses a simile to describe how the diagonal breadths of the wallpaper seem to shift without obeying any known laws of nature. The simile—of breadths like “wallowing seaweeds in full chase”—demonstrates the ever-changing, heedless nature of the wallpaper as it seems to surge and billow.

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