The Yellow Wallpaper: Entry 7
It is their last day at the house and the Narrator is overjoyed because her husband will leave that evening and spend the whole night in town. To help the crouching woman, she pulls at the paper all night long and together they peel off many yards before the sun comes up. When Jennie comes to move the furniture downstairs she is amazed to find a strip of paper as high as her head peeled from the wall halfway around the room. The Narrator explains to her sister-in-law that she did it out of spite for the ugliness of the paper. Jennie laughs and remarks that she wouldn’t mind doing that herself which makes the Narrator suspicious. She asserts to her journal that nobody but herself will ever touch that paper – “not alive!” The Narrator explains to her sister-in-law that she likes the quiet emptiness of the room and will lie down in the bed to rest. She also instructs Jennie not to wake her for dinner.
Alone in the room, she sees where the bed stand has been gnawed by previous occupants. She locks the door from the inside and throws the key out the window onto the front path so no one will enter until John comes home. She wants to “astonish” him. She has acquired some rope to tie up the woman from the pattern if she tries to get away. Desiring to return to work on the paper she realizes that there it nothing to stand upon. She struggles with the bed and bites off a piece of the bed stand in anger. It hurts her teeth so she commences to peel all the paper she can reach from the floor. The paper is difficult to peel and the shapes in the pattern mock her attempts. The Narrator, now very angry, briefly considers that she would like to jump out one of the windows if it were not for the fact that such a step might be “misconstrued”; besides, the bars prevent her. As it is, she doesn’t like to even look out the windows because of all the creeping women outside. The Narrator wonders if they came from the wallpaper like she did. She laments that she will have to go back into the pattern when night falls and this saddens her because it feels wonderful to creep around the big empty room. She considers that, no matter what happens, she will not be forced outside because outdoors everything is green instead of yellow. She notices as she creeps that her shoulder fits perfectly into the long “smooch” going around the walls.
Her husband is at the door calling for an axe. She yells out to him that the key is under a leaf by the front steps. He calmly asks if she will open the door. She explains that she cannot because “the key is down by the front door under a plantain leaf.” She repeats this phrase again and again quietly as she creeps around the room.
When John enters he sees his wife creeping along the wall and calls out: “For God’s sake, what are you doing!” She continues to creep, but looks over her shoulder and responds: “I’ve got out at last…in spite of you and Jane. And I’ve pulled off most of the paper so you can’t put me back!”
John faints and the Narrator notes that she has to creep over him every time she makes a circuit of the walls.
Analysis – Entry Seven
The narrator’s situation takes a sinister turn over the course of this entry which calls into question many of the details from earlier entries. For instance, was the “smooch” on the wall already there or did she, unknown even to herself, cause it during some previous “creeping”. Additionally, did the supposed children gnaw the bedstand and cause other damage to the room or was it the Narrator? In some ways this final entry chronicles the triumph of the Narrator over her physician/husband in that her imagination initially perceives the house as “creepy”, she is told to suppress her imagination but in the end literally “creeps” over the inert body of her physician/husband. More importantly, at least for Gilman’s stated purpose of critiquing the methods of Dr. Weir Mitchell, the conclusion shows the disastrous consequences of trying to check an active imagination. Because the Narrator was given so little to think about or do her active imagination seized upon something repulsive (the wallpaper) and used it as a means to escape the reality of her confinement. It’s worth noting here that some critics have approached the story from the standpoint of complete fabrication and assumed that the Narrator is actually confined to psychiatric institution or sequestered in an abandoned home and that everyone, including John and Jennie, are figments of her imagination. Also worth noting is that the Narrator’s final utterance to her physician/husband states: I’ve got out at last…in spite of you and Jane.” Some have read “Jane” as a misprint for “Jennie” and others have construed it to mean the Narrator’s actual name, indicating that she has completely identified herself as the woman escaped from the pattern and not her self.