The Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
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As the narrator is ‘dividing’, the paper, too, must ‘divide’, and this idea is quietly introduced at line 175:
This wall-paper has a kind of sub-pattern in a different shade, a particularly irritating one, for you can only see it in certain lights, and not clearly then.
But in the places where it isn't faded and where the sun is just so—I can see a strange, provoking, formless sort of figure, that seems to skulk about behind that silly and conspicuous front design. (lines 175-80)
This initial ‘observation’ soon establishes the idea of a ‘back pattern’ to the paper as well as a ‘front pattern’ – and although this may be based on some ‘real’ feature of the wallpaper’s design, it is reasonable to assume that the ‘back pattern’ is not
actually there, whereas the ‘front pattern’ presumably is. This is strongly suggested already by the rather devious language with which the narrator describes a ‘formless sort of figure’ – which sounds as though it simply means a pattern or design of some sort, but which is almost immediately seen to ‘skulk about’ as though this ‘figure’ is actually a human one. In fact, this ‘skulking figure’ is the first – somewhat ambiguous – appearance of the ‘creeping’ or ‘crawling woman’ who will eventually come to supplant the narrator’s ‘sane’ personality altogether. This ‘skulking figure’ reveals, in fact, a great deal. Firstly, it suggests that the narrator is hiding a lot more from her reader than might at first be expected: she is – apparently – hallucinating already, but tries to hide this fact behind her ambiguous phrasing. It is much more likely at this point in the story that her ‘crawling ritual’ has begun, at least in some form. Perhaps her compulsion begins with her ‘skulking’ around the room; then she later starts to ‘creep’, and finally she is reduced to crawling on all fours.
By line 260, the narrator’s hallucinations are becoming much more vivid, and they can be clearly distinguished from ‘imaginative readings’ of the wallpaper patterns:
Behind that outside pattern the dim shapes get clearer every day.
It is always the same shape, only very numerous.
And it is like a woman stooping down and creeping about behind that pattern. I don't like it a bit. I wonder—I begin to think—I wish John would take me away from here! (lines 260-4)
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