Setting in ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ and ‘The Story of an Hour

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Updated: Aug 05, 2023
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The stories of the Yellow Wallpaper and Story of an Hour both have deep meaning and hidden symbols that reflect the lives of women during the Victorian era. Within the setting of the Victorian era, there were laws whereby wives were men’s property and had no direct legal control over their belongings, children, and even earnings. While the main characters of the two stories go through different ordeals, they both have been imprisoned by social customs, which resulted in psychological repression to the extent that they became psychologically traumatized.

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The Psychological Repression and Liberation in “The Story of an Hour”

When she learns of her husband’s death, Chopin’s protagonist, Mrs. Mallard, puts on a face that has “lines (that) bespoke repression” (Gilman, 2). For a moment, she comes to the realization that, at last, she is free from the oppressive laws that made her the property of her husband. She goes into her room and releases her fear, repeatedly saying “free, free, free!” under her breath. Chopin writes, “The vacant stare and the look of terror that had followed it (this realization) went from her eyes… her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body” (Gilman, 3). Her joy is, however, short-lived when she descends the stairs and sees Mr. Mallard, her husband. The freedom that she thought she had finally gotten dies, and the psychological repression which had been so extreme is revived. She dies from the realization that her husband is not dead.

The Significance of Mrs. Mallard’s Heart Condition

Just like the character Mrs. Mallard, the unmated character in Gilman’s story The Yellow Wallpaper also suffers from the repressive social norms of her culture. In fact, she develops post-partum depression, a condition that has a lot to do with the mistreatment of women during the Victorian Age. Her husband confines her in the house, and she is completely isolated from the outside world. He believes that by her resting and being confined in solitude then, she will heal from her melancholia. However, her condition worsens, making her even more mentally damaged. She becomes so severely repressed, resulting in the damaging side effect of psychosis. The narrator does not have the freedom to do what she wants. She refers to her husband as a “physician of high standing” whom she cannot argue with about her condition. She even repeats a specific like that, “What is one to do” at the beginning of her story (Chopin, 322). This line implies that the narrator, like many other women in the Victorian era, did not have the freedom to do as they pleased but were rather commanded by their husbands. The consequence of such confinement is what led to the narrator becoming insane.


In both stories, the characters portray the lives of a typical woman in the Victorian setting. Both protagonists are under the power of their husbands and try to release themselves from it. However, they do not achieve freedom as they thought, although they gain it through insanity and death. Mrs. Mallard dies from a heart attack, while the unnamed protagonist in The Yellow Wallpaper becomes mad.


  1. Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” The New England Magazine, vol. 5, no. 5, 1892, pp. 647-656.

  2. Lanser, Susan S. “Feminist Criticism, ‘The Yellow Wallpaper,’ and the Politics of Color in America.” Feminist Studies, vol. 15, no. 3, 1989, pp. 415-441.

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Setting in 'The Yellow Wallpaper' and 'The Story of an Hour. (2023, Aug 05). Retrieved from