The Yellow Wallpaper Characters

This article by experts contains all the information about The Yellow Wallpaper’s characters: the narrator, John, Mary, and Jennie. At the end of the article, you’ll learn who Jane is and how she’s related to The Yellow Wallpaper’s main character.

🗺️ The Yellow Wallpaper: Character Map

Below you’ll find a character map of “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

The picture contains a character map for The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

🌟 The Yellow Wallpaper Characters List

The Yellow Wallpaper’s characters are: 

💬 Yellow Wallpaper’s Narrator

The anonymous figure is placed at the top of the characters list because she is the short story’s narrator. She is a complex character who has to go on a journey of self-discovery to find her true self. Throughout the story, the woman faces situations that may seem ordinary at first glance but, in reality, make the character feel trapped.  

The plot of “The Yellow Wallpaper” revolves around the narrator’s attempt to avoid acknowledging how much she has to suppress herself due to external circumstances. The story’s tragedy and horror is that the woman has to completely lose herself and her connection to the real world to understand herself.

We can tell that the narrator is from the upper-middle class. Her family can afford such a house, but she’s still surprised how. Not so long after giving birth, she seems to have postpartum depression.

Despite a slight hint on her real name at the end of the story, discussions considering this question are still intense. To learn more about it, check out the next section of the article.

John, her husband, rents a country house for the summer. According to him, it is supposed to help her heal. The primary treatment method he uses is the “rest cure.” Moreover, she is not allowed to perform any intellectual activity.

However, she secretly keeps a diary where she writes down her thoughts and events. We can suggest that previously she had been a writer of some kind. The narrator possesses a very developed imagination and creative writing skills.

With each day, her depression is getting worse and worse. Finally, it reaches the culmination at the end of Gilman’s story, when she suffers a major breakdown.

What Is the Narrator’s Name in The Yellow Wallpaper?

In “The Yellow Wallpaper”, the narrator doesn’t uncover her name until the very end. It’s Jane. However, we can’t even say that it is she who points out the name. The wallpaper woman’s character suppresses her true self. It is a complex topic.

The Yellow Wallpaper: Narrator’s Quotes

John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no reason to suffer, and that satisfies him. Of course it is only nervousness.

“The Yellow Wallpaper”, entry 2

This paper looks to me as if it knew what a vicious influence it had! There is a recurrent spot where the pattern lolls like a broken neck and two bulbous eyes stare at you upside-down. I get positively angry with the impertinence of it and the everlastingness.

“The Yellow Wallpaper”, entry 2

The faint figure behind seemed to shake the pattern, just as if she wanted to get out. I got up softly and went to feel and see if the paper did move, and when I came back John was awake.

“The Yellow Wallpaper”, entry 5

I’ve got out at last,” said I, “in spite of you and Jane! And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back!” Now why should that man have fainted? But he did, and right across my path by the wall, so that I had to creep over him every time!

“The Yellow Wallpaper”, entry 11

👨‍⚕️ The Yellow Wallpaper: John Character Analysis

While John may seem like the story’s villain, the author presents a nuanced view of his character. The man’s intentions are pure—he wants to help his wife. However, his cold and authoritative demeanor as both a doctor and a husband only further worsens the narrator’s state. John’s clinical mindset blinds him to his wife’s inner struggles and makes the woman see him as an enemy rather than a savior.

The chilling finale highlights how the dynamic of their relationship, where the narrator has no control and authority, ultimately destroys both of them. At the end of the story, John faints in shock while his wife, now insane, fails to recognize him. It’s the man’s ignorance and paternalistic attitude, not malice, that lead to an eventual tragedy.

Despite probably being a good professional, he completely ignores the needs of his wife. Every time she complains about something, John only tells her to stop being so picky. He mainly treats the narrator more like a child and not his wife, calling her a “little girl.”

Moreover, this issue is deeply connected to the gender roles theme. Here, however, we can highlight how patronizing John is of his wife, which is also related to the issue of feminism.

He appears to be so sure in his treatment plan that he neglects the narrator’s opinion. In turn, it contributes to the development of her mental illness. She starts with distrust towards him and hiding her feelings.

Eventually, his negligence results in the narrator’s complete breakdown. John’s treatment goes wrong as his wife becomes nothing more than a patient to him. However, it appears that it is not intentional. He loves her and wants the best for her, but he doesn’t understand her needs.

The Yellow Wallpaper: John’s Quotes

What is it, little girl?” he said. “Don’t go walking about like that—you’ll get cold.

“The Yellow Wallpaper”, entry 5

Bless her little heart!” said he with a big hug; “she shall be as sick as she pleases! But now let’s improve the shining hours by going to sleep, and talk about it in the morning!

“The Yellow Wallpaper”, entry 5

My darling… There is nothing so dangerous, so fascinating, to a temperament like yours. It is a false and foolish fancy. Can you not trust me as a physician when I tell you so?

“The Yellow Wallpaper”, entry 5

👩‍⚕️ Mary: The Yellow Wallpaper Character

Mary, the nurse in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” is only mentioned once but holds significance in the story. She cares for the narrator’s baby after the woman’s mental health deteriorates.

Mary embodies the ideal wife of Victorian society. The nurse’s presence emphasizes the societal expectations imposed on women at that time. By adding Mary’s character, the author highlights the contrast between the two women — the nurse’s domestic competence and the narrator’s struggles. While Mary may seem like a minor character, the woman plays a crucial role as she is the one who gives the narrator relief by caring for her child.

👩 Jennie in The Yellow Wallpaper

In “The Yellow Wallpaper”, Jennie, John’s sister, serves as a housekeeper for the family. Moreover, sometimes she helps to take care of the narrator. Genuinely worried about the health of John’s wife, she notices the change in her. However, the narrator only sees a competitor in her – Jennie seems to be a perfect woman.

As opposed to the narrator, Jennie embraces the Victorian values. She happily follows Johns’s lead and agrees to the caretaker role, looking after her brother’s wife. She doesn’t feel trapped or mind the social structure where women are expected to stay home.

However, unlike John, who sees the narrator as someone inferior and acts as an authoritarian figure, Jennie feels empathy towards her and respects her wishes. With time, the narrator grows more wary of John’s sister, but she still sees her as a lesser threat than the doctor.

❓ Who Is Jane in The Yellow Wallpaper?

There is still no agreement on whether Jane is the actual name of the narrator or not. In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the protagonist refers to herself as Jane only at one point in the story. It happens when she writes, “I’ve got out at last.”

Some critics believe this moment signifies the woman’s mental breakdown and complete dissociation from her own identity and reality. She now identifies herself with the woman trapped in the wallpaper and refuses to acknowledge herself as John’s wife, Jane.

The other theory is that the narrator mistakenly wrote “Jane” instead of “Jennie.” Given the narrator’s detachment from daily life and her mental condition, this should not come as a surprise.  

This view is criticized for simplifying the story. Since it’s evident from the text that the narrator sees both John and Jennie as her captors and society as something that oppresses her, it’s only natural for her to reject the identity given to her by that society. According to this feminist interpretation, the woman chooses to free herself by losing herself and her old name. 

We hope that the above analysis of The Yellow Wallpaper’s characters is useful. If you want to be aware of the true meaning of the story, you should check out “The Yellow Wallpaper” summary and analysis sections. And if you’re looking for exciting essay ideas on the story, feel free to chose any of our “The Yellow Wallpaper” topics

🔗 References

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