In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” there is an apparent opposition between reason and imagination. Jane, the protagonist and narrator of the story describes her husband, John as a practical man who makes decisions based on reason alone. Although Jane believes that she is sick, John contends that she is only suffering from a temporary nervous depression that will be cured through rest and relaxation alone. In contrast, Jane enjoys using her imagination and believes that expressing herself through writing will better her health. Jane’s inability to express herself through writing causes her to lose control of herself and her imagination. The “woman” she sees in the wallpaper symbolizes her creative and expressive nature that she and John both attempt to repress.
The “woman” in the wallpaper has the same qualities as Jane’s creativity/her writing ability. Jane can only write during the day because John is not there to stop her. Similarly, the “woman” behind the wallpaper only comes out during the day. Jane writes, “I think the woman gets out in the daytime!” (68). The “woman” creeping during the day can be seen as symbolic of the way that Jane tries to conceal her writing from John. Referring to the “woman” behind the wall, Jane writes, “for she is always creeping, and most women do not creep by daylight” (68). This statement can be read as a metaphor implying that most women do not try to hide themselves from their husbands during the day. Jane even refers to her actions during the daytime as creeping when she writes, “I always lock the door when I creep by daylight” (68). Jane’s inability to write at night further suggests such a metaphor. She writes, “I can’t do it at night, for I know John would suspect something” (68). Jane cannot express herself by writing at night because John is there to stop her.
Both John and Jane’s attempts to repress Jane’s imagination throughout the story are ineffective. John forbids Jane from writing, and Jane hides her writing and stops altogether when she is no longer alone. Though, Jane cannot help but express herself at the end of the story. The “woman” behind the wall finally escaping may symbolize Jane’s resolving to defy her husband and write whenever she likes. Jane writes, “I got out at last, said I, in spite of you and Jane!” (70). Instead of staying repressed, Jane’s imagination and expressive nature are let free. Since Jane narrated the story, she may not have gone crazy at all. The creativity and symbolism that increases as the story progresses may just be Jane’s imagination winning her over. At the very end of the story Jane may have just been writing avidly. When John faints, Jane writes, “Now why should that man have fainted?” (70). John may have fainted because he couldn’t believe that Jane was so insistent on writing. Therefore, Jane’s inability to understand John’s fainting is her realizing that there is nothing wrong with her expressing herself.