What Does Creeping Mean in The Yellow Wallpaper?

Charlotte P. Gilman’s short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” employs the word “creeping” to represent the struggle of women to overcome domestic confinement. The term appears frequently in the text, contributing to the eerie atmosphere surrounding the protagonist, who is a victim of domestic violence.

The protagonist, a young mother, is forbidden from working and is subjected to numerous restrictions by her husband and sister-in-law. She is expected to conform to societal expectations and be submissive, leaving her with little to do but eat and sleep. She hides a pen and paper from her family because writing is not permitted. Through her choice of words, Gilman creates an atmosphere of despair surrounding the protagonist.

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“Creep” serves a dual purpose in the story. First, it contributes to the unsettling feeling experienced by the reader. Second, it symbolizes women who must “creep over” their plans, emotions, and aspirations to please their husbands. In the end, the author has the protagonist literally and metaphorically creep over her husband, breaking free from her confinement. The story highlights the societal issue of women being trapped in their own homes.

Overall, the use of “creeping” in “The Yellow Wallpaper” adds depth to the story’s themes and creates a sense of unease in the reader. It serves as a powerful symbol of the oppression experienced by women in domestic settings and highlights the need for societal change.


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