The yellow wallpaper is a collective symbol. It represents different aspects of the time the author wrote the story. It concerns the oppressive social standards of patriarchy and women’s inability to claim their voice. Yellow wallpaper shows their burning desire to obtain autonomy and respect.
It is essential to learn the historical background to understand the yellow wallpaper’s symbolism. Charlotte Perkins wrote The Yellow Wallpaper Gilman and first published in 1892. The women’s role in society was secondary to men’s at the time. Women did not have the right to vote and had no control over their own lives.
We can see it in the story. The narrator has to do anything her husband thinks is best for her. She has to sleep in the room with the terrible yellow wallpaper because John did not agree to change rooms. The wallpaper represents the complete neglect of the narrator’s desires or ideas. It appears to be the norm of that time’s society.
As the plot unfolds, the reader witnesses the progressive fall of the narrator into psychosis. The husband of the narrator locks her in a room covered in yellow wallpaper. It drives her to insanity, as it becomes the only object of her mental activity. The wallpaper becomes a portrayal of her sick mental state. The narrator tears up the wallpaper, trying to break the woman inside free. This way, the wallpaper becomes the symbol of the desire for freedom and autonomy.