What Does the Color Yellow Symbolize in “The Yellow Wallpaper”? A Deep Dive into the Meanings

Yellow is a captivating color that has been used in art and literature to convey a range of emotions and meanings. In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s iconic short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the color yellow plays a significant role in the narrative. The way the narrator describes the yellow wallpaper and the wallpaper itself is full of symbolism, which brings the story to life.

Throughout the story, yellow is used to convey feelings of sickness, madness, and even terror. As the narrator slowly becomes more and more obsessed with the pattern on the wallpaper, the yellow hue takes on an ominous quality. Its sickly appearance resembles the skin of someone who is ill and could represent the narrator’s own declining mental state. However, yellow is also a color of hope and brightness, used to represent the sun’s warmth and golden fields of wheat. Therefore, there is a duality to the symbolism of yellow within the story that adds to its complexity.

The use of yellow in “The Yellow Wallpaper” invites readers to reflect on their own associations with this particular color. According to color psychology, yellow is often linked to joy, energy, and optimism. However, nuances exist, and this color can also convey caution, deceitfulness, and illness. In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the color yellow is a powerful tool used by the author to deepen the story’s meaning and to engage readers on a psychological level.

The Significance of Color in Literature

Color is an essential element of literature. It is a powerful tool used by authors to express emotions, evoke mood, and create a visual representation of characters and their environments. The use of color in literature is not just about describing the appearance of the characters or settings; it has a deeper meaning that can add significant value to the story’s themes and ideas.

What Does the Color Yellow Symbolize in The Yellow Wallpaper?

  • The color yellow represents madness and deterioration. As the narrator spirals into madness, she becomes fixated on the yellow wallpaper in her room, seeing figures and shapes in its pattern. The color yellow is associated with illness and decay, which reflects the deteriorating mental state of the narrator.
  • Yellow also symbolizes the societal oppression of women during the time the story was written. The narrator is confined to her room, both physically and mentally, and is not allowed to leave or engage in any activity that is not approved by her husband. The color yellow represents the stifling and limiting societal norms that prevent women from achieving their full potential.

Other Examples of Color Symbolism in Literature

There are many examples of color symbolism in literature that have deeper meanings beyond their literal interpretations. For instance, in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, the color green symbolizes wealth, greed, and jealousy. Jay Gatsby’s mansion is described as having a “green light” at the end of the dock, which represents his pursuit of wealth and his desire for Daisy, who is symbolized by the color white. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, the color red symbolizes passion, sin, and guilt, as Hester is forced to wear a scarlet letter as punishment for her adulterous affair.

The Role of Color in Reader Interpretation

The use of color in literature is not always straightforward, as different colors can have different meanings based on cultural or personal associations. Therefore, the interpretation of color symbolism in literature can vary from reader to reader. The color yellow in The Yellow Wallpaper, for example, can evoke different emotions in different readers, depending on their personal experiences and cultural background. The use of color in literature is, therefore, an effective tool that can help authors convey complex themes and ideas while allowing readers to interpret and engage with the text in their unique way.

Color Symbolism Example
Red Passion, sin, guilt The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Green Wealth, greed, jealousy The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Yellow Madness, decay, societal oppression The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

In conclusion, color symbolism has a crucial role in literature, as it can convey complex themes and ideas while sparking readers’ imagination and interpretation. The use of color in The Yellow Wallpaper adds depth and meaning to the story, highlighting the narrator’s descent into madness and societal oppression. By using color as a tool, writers can create timeless stories that resonate with readers and remain a crucial element of literary analysis.

Symbolism of Color in Feminist Writing

Colors have been used in literature to represent specific ideas or emotions. In feminist writing, colors are often used to symbolize the oppression experienced by women and the fight for their liberation. One of the most prominent examples of color symbolism in feminist literature is the color yellow in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

  • In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the color yellow symbolizes the patriarchal society that confines women to specific roles and expectations.
  • The yellow wallpaper in the story represents the social norms and expectations that confine the narrator to her role as a wife and mother.
  • The color yellow also represents the anxiety and fear that the narrator experiences as she struggles to break free from these societal constraints.

The use of the color yellow in “The Yellow Wallpaper” and other feminist texts is a powerful tool for writers to illustrate the struggles faced by women in oppressive societies. By using strong visual imagery, color symbolism in literature can make a lasting impact on readers and help to bring attention to important social issues.

Overall, the symbolism of color in feminist writing is a powerful tool for authors to utilize in their works. By using colors to represent specific ideas and emotions, writers can convey complex messages and raise awareness about important social issues. In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the color yellow serves as a powerful symbol of the oppression faced by women in patriarchal societies.

Color Symbolism in Feminist Writing
Yellow Oppression, societal constraints, fear and anxiety
Red Anger, passion, power
Green Nature, growth, fertility, rebirth

As shown in the table above, different colors can represent various themes in feminist writing. By understanding the symbolism of colors in literature, readers can gain a deeper understanding of the messages conveyed by authors and the important social issues they are addressing.

The Role of Color in Mental Illness Portrayal

Color is a powerful tool in storytelling, particularly in literature. One example of this is Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” which uses the color yellow to symbolize various elements of the narrator’s mental illness. In this article, we will explore the role of color, specifically the color yellow, in the portrayal of mental illness in “The Yellow Wallpaper.”

The Symbolism of Yellow

  • Yellow represents decay and sickness, as it is the color of jaundice, which is a sign of illness.
  • Yellow is also associated with madness and insanity, as it is the color of bile, which was believed to cause mental illness in ancient times.
  • In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the color yellow is used to symbolize the narrator’s slowly deteriorating mental state, as she becomes increasingly fixated on the wallpaper in her room.

The Impact of Color on Mental Health

The use of color in “The Yellow Wallpaper” highlights the impact that color can have on mental health. Colors influence our moods and emotions, and can even affect our physical health. For example, blue is known to have a calming effect, while red can increase heart rate and blood pressure. Likewise, exposure to certain colors for extended periods of time can have negative effects on mental health.

While our understanding of color psychology has advanced significantly since the publication of “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the story still provides an important commentary on the role of color in mental illness portrayal and the impact it can have on our mental health.

The Importance of Color Sensitivity

Given the impact that color can have on mental health, it is important for those who work in mental health fields to be sensitive to their patients’ color preferences. This includes everything from the colors of the walls in a therapy room to the colors of the clothing that the therapist wears. Consideration of color in this context can help to create a calming and supportive environment for patients.

Color Effect on Mental Health
Blue Calming, can lower blood pressure and heart rate
Green Soothing, can relieve stress
Red Stimulating, can increase heart rate and blood pressure
Yellow Anxiety-provoking, can increase tension and stress

Ultimately, the use of color in “The Yellow Wallpaper” underscores the complexity of mental illness and the need for sensitivity to visual cues in the treatment and portrayal of mental health conditions.

Cultural Associations of the Color Yellow

The color yellow has different cultural associations depending on the society and context. In some cultures, it represents happiness, sunshine, and warmth. In others, it can signify cowardice, jealousy, or mourning. Within the context of “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the color yellow takes on a deeper meaning of imprisonment, decay, and insanity.

  • China: In Chinese culture, yellow is associated with royalty and power. The first Emperor of China was known as the Yellow Emperor, and yellow robes were worn exclusively by the Emperor and his family. However, in modern times, yellow is associated with pornography and it is unfortunate to wear or use yellow bed sheets and towels because yellow used to be Chinese pornographic publishers’ favourite color.
  • India: In Hinduism, yellow symbolizes knowledge and learning. It is also the color of the third chakra, which represents energy and self-control.
  • Japan: In Japanese culture, yellow is the color of courage and nobility. It is also the color of the imperial family.

In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the color yellow is used to symbolize the protagonist’s descent into madness. The yellow wallpaper in her bedroom becomes a physical representation of her deteriorating mental state, with the pattern resembling bars on a prison cell. As she becomes more trapped in her own mind, she becomes increasingly fixated on the wallpaper, which takes on a sickly and decaying hue.

The following Table shows some cultural associations of the color yellow:

Country Association
China Royalty, power, pornography (modern times)
India Knowledge, learning, energy, self-control
Japan Courage, nobility, imperial family

In conclusion, the color yellow has various cultural associations, ranging from happiness and royalty to cowardice and mourning. In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the color takes on a darker meaning of confinement and insanity. The use of the color helps to depict the protagonist’s psychological transformation, making it a key symbol in the story. Understanding cultural associations of color can enrich one’s interpretation of literature and art.

The Symbolism of Wallpaper in Literature

Throughout literature, the use of wallpaper has been a recurring symbol that represents social stigmas, the connection between the conscious and unconscious, and a reflection of the inner mind of the characters. One of the most iconic examples of the symbolism of wallpaper in literature is in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.” In this short story, the narrator is trapped in a bedroom with a hideous yellow wallpaper that symbolizes her descent into insanity.

The Symbolism of Yellow in “The Yellow Wallpaper”

  • Yellow symbolizes sickness
  • Yellow represents the deterioration of the mind
  • Yellow is associated with cowardice and weakness

The Connection Between Wallpaper and the Unconscious Mind

In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the narrator becomes increasingly obsessed with the pattern of the wallpaper, seeing it as both a metaphor for her trapped state and a reflection of her inner mind. This connection between the wallpaper and the unconscious mind is a common theme in literature, as it represents the idea that our thoughts and desires can be hidden or represented in the patterns that surround us.

The use of wallpaper as a metaphor for the unconscious is not limited to “The Yellow Wallpaper.” In Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway,” the main character becomes fixated on the wallpaper in her bedroom, which becomes a symbol of the turmoil within her own mind.

The Symbolism of Wallpaper in Society

In literature, the symbolism of wallpaper often represents the societal expectations and norms that characters are forced to conform to. This is particularly evident in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” where the wallpaper represents the traditional Victorian gender roles that constrain the narrator. As the story progresses, the narrator begins to see herself as trapped within the wallpaper, symbolizing how women were trapped within their expected roles in society.

The Symbolism of the Patterns in Wallpaper

Finally, in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the patterns in the wallpaper represent the patterns of society that the narrator is expected to conform to. The chaotic and disorienting patterns in the wallpaper are a reflection of the narrator’s own disorientation as she struggles against the expectations placed upon her. This idea of patterns in wallpaper as a reflection of societal norms and expectations is present in other literary works as well, such as in William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily.”

Symbolism of Patterns in Wallpaper Examples in Literature
Confinement, entrapment “The Yellow Wallpaper,” “The Awakening”
Deception, disguise “The Cask of Amontillado,” “The Masque of the Red Death”
Unpredictability, chaos “A Rose for Emily,” “The Haunted Palace”

The use of wallpaper as a symbol is a powerful literary device that allows authors to explore complex themes such as society, gender roles, and the connection between the conscious and unconscious mind. Through the use of patterns, colors, and textures, wallpaper can become a metaphor for the world in which the characters live.

The motif of confinement in “The Yellow Wallpaper”

“The Yellow Wallpaper” is a short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman that revolves around the concept of confinement. The story is set in a house where the narrator, a woman who is suffering from postpartum depression, is confined to rest by her husband. Throughout the story, the color yellow symbolizes confinement and the narrator’s mental state. The motif of confinement in “The Yellow Wallpaper” is evident in several ways, including the following:

  • Physical confinement: The narrator is confined to a room that she describes as “big and airy and full of windows” but is also a “creepy” and “queer” room. Her husband believes that the rest and isolation will help her recover, but as the story progresses, it becomes clear that the room is the source of her worsening condition. The room’s yellow wallpaper, which has a pattern that resembles bars, further symbolizes her physical confinement, and the narrator feels trapped by it.
  • Mental confinement: The narrator is also confined in her mind, as she is unable to express her feelings and thoughts freely. Her husband, John, dismisses her concerns, which leads to her feeling isolated and trapped. The narrator’s obsession with the yellow wallpaper represents her mental confinement, as she is fixated on it and sees it as a form of imprisonment.
  • Social confinement: The narrator is confined to a traditional, patriarchal society that does not allow women to express themselves or seek medical treatment independently. The story also explores the social implications of confinement, as the narrator’s marriage seems to be contributing to her illness. She is unable to escape the societal expectations of marriage and motherhood, which further exacerbates her condition.

In conclusion, the motif of confinement in “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a powerful symbol of the protagonist’s physical, mental, and social imprisonment. The color yellow, as represented by the wallpaper, is a reminder of the narrator’s confinement, both in her mind and body. The story is a cautionary tale about the harmful effects of societal constraints, especially for women, and the importance of mental health and self-expression.

Analysis of the color yellow in relation to the narrator’s descent into madness

In the psychological thriller “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the use of the color yellow is significant as it represents the narrator’s descent into madness. Here we will analyze the significance of the color yellow in the story and how it is related to the narrator’s mental state.

  • The color yellow is often associated with joy, happiness, and vitality. At the beginning of the story, the narrator is shown to have a somewhat positive attitude towards the yellow wallpaper, an indication of her initial mental state.
  • As the story progresses, the narrator’s initial optimism fades away, and the color yellow becomes a symbol of oppression and confinement. She begins to notice that the wallpaper’s yellow pattern appears to be moving and that the color is slowly taking over her mind. This is an indication of the illusionary world that the narrator is slowly immersing herself into, leading to her descend into madness.
  • The narrator’s obsession with the yellow wallpaper starts to take over her mind, she becomes more and more delusional, and the color yellow becomes more sinister. The yellow color represents her entrapment in a world that is both physical and psychological, leading her to question her own sanity.

Finally, the narrator reaches her breaking point, and the yellow color takes over her mind completely, leading her to behave irrationally and lose touch with reality altogether.

In conclusion, the color yellow in “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a symbol of the narrator’s descent into madness, and it is a significant sign of the story’s psychological depths and complexities, leading to a bleak but unforgettable ending.

Comparative analysis of yellow symbolism in “The Yellow Wallpaper” and other works of literature

One of the most significant symbols in “The Yellow Wallpaper” is the color yellow, which represents various themes throughout the story. Interestingly, the color yellow is also used as a symbol in other works of literature. Here, we will compare and analyze the yellow symbolism in “The Yellow Wallpaper” to other literary works.

  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: In this book, the color yellow symbolizes wealth and corruption. The character Daisy wears a yellow dress, which represents her wealth and status. Similarly, the character Myrtle is associated with the color yellow, which represents her desire for wealth and her moral corruption.
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde: In this novel, the color yellow is used to represent decay and corruption. The portrait of Dorian Gray is often described as having a yellow tinge, which represents Dorian’s moral corruption and decay.
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger: In this classic novel, the color yellow represents innocence and purity. The protagonist Holden Caulfield buys a yellow hunting hat, which he wears throughout the novel as a symbol of his desire to protect his innocence.

Overall, the color yellow can represent various themes and emotions in literature. In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” yellow symbolizes sickness, decay, and the narrator’s mental breakdown.

Interestingly, the use of the color yellow as a symbol can also vary depending on the cultural context. In some cultures, yellow represents happiness and good luck, while in others, it represents cowardice or betrayal.

Symbolism “The Yellow Wallpaper” Other Literary Works
Decay and corruption Yellow wallpaper symbolizes the protagonist’s mental breakdown and the decay of her mind. The Picture of Dorian Gray uses the color yellow to represent decay and corruption.
Wealth and status The protagonist’s husband is a wealthy doctor, and she is confined to a room with yellow wallpaper, which represents her low status and lack of power. The character Daisy from The Great Gatsby wears a yellow dress, which represents her wealth and status.
Innocence and purity Yellow symbolizes the innocence that the protagonist has lost. The Catcher in the Rye uses the color yellow to represent innocence and purity.

Through the comparative analysis of yellow symbolism in “The Yellow Wallpaper” and other literary works, we can see how the use of color as a symbol can vary depending on the context and culture in which it is used. The color yellow can represent various themes and emotions, including decay, corruption, wealth, status, innocence, and purity.

Historical Context of the Color Yellow and its use in Literature

The color yellow has been used symbolically for centuries, and its meaning has evolved over time depending on the cultural, religious, or social context. In Ancient Egypt, for instance, yellow was associated with the sun god Ra, and it represented eternal life and resurrection. In China, yellow was the imperial color, reserved for the emperor and symbolizing power and prestige. In Christianity, yellow is often used to symbolize betrayal, as it was the color worn by Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus.

In literature, yellow has been used in different ways depending on the time period and style. In medieval literature, yellow was often associated with sickness or cowardice, as it was the color of jaundice. In Shakespeare’s plays, yellow was also used to represent cowardice or deceit. In the 19th century, however, yellow became associated with decadence and excess, thanks to the French literary movement of Symbolism, which used rich, sensuous colors to evoke strong emotions. This is the context in which Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote “The Yellow Wallpaper,” a short story that still resonates with readers today.

Symbolism in “The Yellow Wallpaper”

  • The yellow wallpaper symbolizes confinement and oppression, as the protagonist is trapped in a room with yellow wallpaper that she finds repulsive and oppressive. The wallpaper seems to reflect her mental state, which is deteriorating as she becomes more and more isolated and desperate for escape.
  • The color yellow also symbolizes sickness and decay, as the protagonist’s condition worsens over time, and she becomes more obsessed with the wallpaper and her own delusions. The yellow stains on the wallpaper become more prominent, and the patterns seem to come alive and mock her.
  • Finally, the color yellow symbolizes madness and the breakdown of mental health. The protagonist’s obsession with the wallpaper and her own confinement becomes increasingly manic and irrational, until she finally tears it down in a fit of madness.

The Function of Yellow in Literature

The use of color symbolism in literature is a powerful way to evoke emotions and convey themes without resorting to explicit description or exposition. By associating a particular color with a specific concept or feeling, writers can create a deeper level of meaning and subtext that resonates with readers on a subconscious level. Yellow is a particularly evocative color, with connotations of sickness, cowardice, decadence, and madness, making it a popular choice for writers looking to convey complex emotions or themes. Whether used as a symbol of hope or despair, the color yellow has a rich history of symbolic significance that continues to inform contemporary literature.

Symbol Meaning
Yellow Sickness, cowardice, decadence, madness
Red Passion, love, danger, anger
Blue Sadness, calm, tranquility, loyalty

Source: https://blog.prepscholar.com/examples-of-color-symbolism-in-literature

Interpretations of the color yellow in psychological symbolism

Yellow, being a bright and eye-catching color, holds various meanings and interpretations in psychological symbolism. Below are some of the common ones:

  • Optimism and Happiness: Yellow is often associated with positive emotions such as happiness, optimism, and joy. It is believed to stimulate mental activity, boost confidence and self-esteem, and elevate mood.
  • Creativity and Innovation: Yellow is known to activate the left side of the brain, which is responsible for logical thinking, creativity, and innovation.
  • Energy and Attention: Due to its bright and bold nature, yellow is believed to grab attention and evoke energy, excitement, and enthusiasm. It is often used in advertising and marketing to attract customers.

Besides these positive connotations, yellow can also carry negative associations, such as:

  • Cowardice and Fear: Yellow has been associated with cowardice and fear for centuries. According to some historians, this symbolism originated from ancient Greece, where defeated soldiers would wear yellow robes as a sign of shame and humiliation.
  • Caution and Warning: Yellow is often used to indicate caution or warning, such as in road signs or hazard symbols.
  • Anxiety and Irritation: In some cases, yellow can be overwhelming and cause anxiety or irritation. People with a phobia of bright colors, for example, may experience discomfort in yellow environments.

To further understand the interpretations of the color yellow, we can look at how it is used in literature and art. In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” for instance, the color yellow symbolizes insanity, decay, and imprisonment. The protagonist, who suffers from postpartum depression, becomes obsessed with the yellow wallpaper in her room, and its patterns begin to resemble bars and chains that trap her.

Positive Interpretations Negative Interpretations
Optimism and Happiness Cowardice and Fear
Creativity and Innovation Caution and Warning
Energy and Attention Anxiety and Irritation

In conclusion, the color yellow holds multiple interpretations in psychological symbolism, ranging from positive to negative connotations. Its meanings depend on various factors such as cultural background, personal experiences, and context. By understanding these interpretations, we can appreciate the powerful impact that colors have on our emotions and behavior.

What Does the Color Yellow Symbolize in the Yellow Wallpaper?

Q: What is the significance of the yellow wallpaper in the story?
A: The yellow wallpaper represents the protagonist’s deteriorating mental state and her descent into psychosis.

Q: Why is the color yellow used as a symbol?
A: Yellow is associated with sickness, decay, and madness, which aligns with the protagonist’s mental state.

Q: How does the yellow wallpaper affect the protagonist?
A: The protagonist becomes obsessed with the pattern of the wallpaper and begins to see disturbing images within it, which further exacerbates her mental illness.

Q: What does the yellow wallpaper convey about societal views on women’s mental health during the time period in which the story takes place?
A: The story reflects the societal stigma surrounding women’s mental health and the lack of understanding and treatment options available to them.

Q: What is the contrast between the yellow wallpaper and the protagonist’s desire for freedom?
A: The protagonist’s desire for liberation and autonomy is represented by the outside world, while the yellow wallpaper symbolizes the confining and oppressive nature of her illness and societal expectations.

Q: Is there a connection between the color yellow and the sun or daylight?
A: Yes, the color yellow is often associated with the sun or daylight, which could suggest that the protagonist desires the warmth and light of the outside world but is trapped in the darkness of her mental illness.

Q: Does the color yellow have any positive connotations in the story?
A: No, the color yellow is consistently used to convey negative emotions and themes of sickness and confinement throughout the story.

The Takeaway

In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the color yellow symbolizes the protagonist’s descent into madness and the societal views surrounding women’s mental health during the time period in which the story is set. It is associated with confinement, sickness, and decay, which reinforces the story’s themes of oppression, isolation, and lack of control. Thank you for taking the time to read this article, and we hope to see you again soon for more literary insights.