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Tone in The Yellow Wallpaper

Tone Examples in The Yellow Wallpaper:

The Yellow Wallpaper

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"It strikes me occasionally, just as a scientific hypothesis,—that perhaps it is the paper!..."   (The Yellow Wallpaper)

Ironically employing scientific jargon, the narrator sublty mocks her husband’s superiority. Here, she turns his “wisdom” on its head, running her own scientific experiment and observing her husband’s strange behavior.

"But what is one to do?..."   (The Yellow Wallpaper)

“The Yellow Wallpaper” is formatted as the narrator’s journal entries. She takes up writing whenever she needs relief and often writes in the second person, as though she were speaking to a friend. However, her husband disapproves of this practice and chastises her whenever he sees her writing. The narrator, in turn, must write in secret. This circumstance lends her writing a tone of abruptness and curtness. Everything she writes is in one or two sentence increments and she often signs off when she sees her husband approaching. The brisk nature of these sentences demonstrates her anxiety and precariousness. She fears her husband’s “heavy opposition” and must write quickly and furtively. The format of these sentences also demonstrate how she dismisses her own thoughts, just as her husband does. The narrator will start with one thought and never finish it, instead cutting herself short as she begins the following sentence. In other instances, she will abruptly end a sentence by imagining how John would dismiss her.

"there is something strange about the house—I can feel it...."   (The Yellow Wallpaper)

Gilman draws on motifs from gothic literature—a popular genre in the 1800s—in her description of the “strange,” isolated, seemingly haunted mansion with its ruined greenhouses, abandoned servants’ cottages, extensive gardens, and mysterious past. Gothic tales often revolved around a troubled heroine narrating her own story while imprisoned in such a setting.

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