From Project Gutenberg:
It is very seldom that mere ordinary people like John and
myself secure ancestral halls for the summer.
A colonial mansion, a hereditary estate, I would say a
haunted house, and reach the height of romantic felicity--but
that would be asking too much of fate!
Still I will proudly declare that there is something queer
Else, why should it be let so cheaply? And why have stood
so long untenanted?
John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in
John is practical in the extreme. He has no patience with
faith, an intense horror of superstition, and he scoffs openly at
any talk of things not to be felt and seen and put down in
John is a physician, and PERHAPS--(I would not say it to a
living soul, of course, but this is dead paper and a great relief
to my mind)--PERHAPS that is one reason I do not get well
You see he does not believe I am sick!
And what can one do?
If a physician of high standing, and one's own husband,
assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the
matter with one but temporary nervous depression--a slight
hysterical tendency--what is one to do?
My brother is also a physician, and also of high standing,
and he says the same thing.
So I take phosphates or phosphites--whichever it is, and
tonics, and journeys, and air, and exercise, and am absolutely
forbidden to "work" until I am well again.
Personally, I disagree with their ideas.
Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement
and change, would do me good.
But what is one to do?
I did write for a while in spite of them; but it DOES
exhaust me a good deal--having to be so sly about it, or else
meet with heavy opposition.
I sometimes fancy that my condition if I had less opposition
and more society and stimulus--but John says the very worst thing
I can do is to think about my condition, and I confess it always
makes me feel bad.
So I will let it alone and talk about the house.
The most beautiful place! It is quite alone, standing well
back from the road, quite three miles from the village. It makes
me think of English places that you read about, for there are
hedges and walls and gates that lock, and lots of separate little
houses for the gardeners and people.
There is a DELICIOUS garden! I never saw such a
garden--large and shady, full of box-bordered paths, and lined
with long grape-covered arbors with seats under them.
There were greenhouses, too, but they are all broken now.
There was some legal trouble, I believe, something about the
heirs and coheirs; anyhow, the place has been empty for years.
That spoils my ghostliness, I am afraid, but I don't
care--there is something strange about the house--I can feel it.
I even said so to John one moonlight evening, but he said
what I felt was a DRAUGHT, and shut the window.
I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes. I'm sure I
never used to be so sensitive. I think it is due to this nervous
But John says if I feel so, I shall neglect proper
self-control; so I take pains to control myself--before him, at
least, and that makes me very tired.
I don't like our room a bit. I wanted one downstairs that
opened on the piazza and had roses all over the window, and such
pretty old-fashioned chintz hangings! but John would not hear of
He said there was only one window and not room for two beds,
and no near room for him if he took another.
He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir
without special direction.
I have a schedule prescription for each hour in the day; he
takes all care from me, and so I feel basely ungrateful not to
value it more.
He said we came here solely on my account, that I was to
have perfect rest and all the air I could get. "Your exercise
depends on your strength, my dear," said he, "and your food
somewhat on your appetite; but air you can absorb all the time."
So we took the nursery at the top of the house.
It is a big, airy room, the whole floor nearly, with windows
that look all ways, and air and sunshine galore. It was nursery
first and then playroom and gymnasium, I should judge; for the
windows are barred for little children, and there are rings and
things in the walls.
The paint and paper look as if a boys' school had used it.
It is stripped off--the paper--in great patches all around the
head of my bed, about as far as I can reach, and in a great place
on the other side of the room low down. I never saw a worse
paper in my life.
One of those sprawling flamboyant patterns committing every
It is dull enough to confuse the eye in following,
pronounced enough to constantly irritate and provoke study, and
when you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance
they suddenly commit suicide--plunge off at outrageous angles,
destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions.
The color is repellent, almost revolting; a smouldering
unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight.
It is a dull yet lurid orange in some places, a sickly
sulphur tint in others.
No wonder the children hated it! I should hate it myself if
I had to live in this room long.
There comes John, and I must put this away,--he hates to
have me write a word.
We have been here two weeks, and I haven't felt like writing
before, since that first day.
I am sitting by the window now, up in this atrocious
nursery, and there is nothing to hinder my writing as much as I
please, save lack of strength.
John is away all day, and even some nights when his cases
I am glad my case is not serious!
But these nervous troubles are dreadfully depressing.
John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there
is no REASON to suffer, and that satisfies him.
Of course it is only nervousness. It does weigh on me so
not to do my duty in any way!
I meant to be such a help to John, such a real rest and
comfort, and here I am a comparative burden already!
Nobody would believe what an effort it is to do what little
I am able,--to dress and entertain, and other things.
It is fortunate Mary is so good with the baby. Such a dear
And yet I CANNOT be with him, it makes me so nervous.
I suppose John never was nervous in his life. He laughs at
me so about this wall-paper!
At first he meant to repaper the room, but afterwards he
said that I was letting it get the better of me, and that nothing
was worse for a nervous patient than to give way to such fancies.
He said that after the wall-paper was changed it would be
the heavy bedstead, and then the barred windows, and then that
gate at the head of the stairs, and so on.
"You know the place is doing you good," he said, "and
really, dear, I don't care to renovate the house just for a three
"Then do let us go downstairs," I said, "there are such
pretty rooms there."
Then he took me in his arms and called me a blessed little
goose, and said he would go down to the cellar, if I wished, and
have it whitewashed into the bargain.
But he is right enough about the beds and windows and
It is an airy and comfortable room as any one need wish,
and, of course, I would not be so silly as to make him
uncomfortable just for a whim.
I'm really getting quite fond of the big room, all but that
Out of one window I can see the garden, those mysterious
deepshaded arbors, the riotous old-fashioned flowers, and bushes
and gnarly trees.
Out of another I get a lovely view of the bay and a little
private wharf belonging to the estate. There is a beautiful
shaded lane that runs down there from the house. I always fancy
I see people walking in these numerous paths and arbors, but John
has cautioned me not to give way to fancy in the least. He says
that with my imaginative power and habit of story-making, a
nervous weakness like mine is sure to lead to all manner of
excited fancies, and that I ought to use my will and good sense
to check the tendency. So I try.
I think sometimes that if I were only well enough to write a
little it would relieve the press of ideas and rest me.
But I find I get pretty tired when I try.
It is so discouraging not to have any advice and
companionship about my work. When I get really well, John says
we will ask Cousin Henry and Julia down for a long visit; but he
says he would as soon put fireworks in my pillow-case as to let
me have those stimulating people about now.
I wish I could get well faster.
But I must not think about that. This paper looks to me as
if it KNEW what a vicious influence it had!
There is a recurrent spot where the pattern lolls like a
broken neck and two bulbous eyes stare at you upside down.
I get positively angry with the impertinence of it and the
everlastingness. Up and down and sideways they crawl, and those
absurd, unblinking eyes are everywhere. There is one place where
two breadths didn't match, and the eyes go all up and down the
line, one a little higher than the other.
I never saw so much expression in an inanimate thing before,
and we all know how much expression they have! I used to lie
awake as a child and get more entertainment and terror out of
blank walls and plain furniture than most children could find in
a toy store.
I remember what a kindly wink the knobs of our big, old
bureau used to have, and there was one chair that always seemed
like a strong friend.
I used to feel that if any of the other things looked too
fierce I could always hop into that chair and be safe.
The furniture in this room is no worse than inharmonious,
however, for we had to bring it all from downstairs. I suppose
when this was used as a playroom they had to take the nursery
things out, and no wonder! I never saw such ravages as the
children have made here.
The wall-paper, as I said before, is torn off in spots, and
it sticketh closer than a brother--they must have had
perseverance as well as hatred.
Then the floor is scratched and gouged and splintered, the
plaster itself is dug out here and there, and this great heavy
bed which is all we found in the room, looks as if it had been
through the wars.
But I don't mind it a bit--only the paper.
There comes John's sister. Such a dear girl as she is, and
so careful of me! I must not let her find me writing.
She is a perfect and enthusiastic housekeeper, and hopes for
no better profession. I verily believe she thinks it is the
writing which made me sick!
But I can write when she is out, and see her a long way off
from these windows.
There is one that commands the road, a lovely shaded winding
road, and one that just looks off over the country. A lovely
country, too, full of great elms and velvet meadows.
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
There's sister on the stairs!
Well, the Fourth of July is over! The people are gone and I
am tired out. John thought it might do me good to see a little
company, so we just had mother and Nellie and the children down
for a week.
Of course I didn't do a thing. Jennie sees to everything
But it tired me all the same.
John says if I don't pick up faster he shall send me to Weir
Mitchell in the fall.
But I don't want to go there at all. I had a friend who was
in his hands once, and she says he is just like John and my
brother, only more so!
Besides, it is such an undertaking to go so far.
I don't feel as if it was worth while to turn my hand over
for anything, and I'm getting dreadfully fretful and querulous.
I cry at nothing, and cry most of the time.
Of course I don't when John is here, or anybody else, but
when I am alone.
And I am alone a good deal just now. John is kept in town
very often by serious cases, and Jennie is good and lets me alone
when I want her to.
So I walk a little in the garden or down that lovely lane,
sit on the porch under the roses, and lie down up here a good
I'm getting really fond of the room in spite of the
wall-paper. Perhaps BECAUSE of the wall-paper.
It dwells in my mind so!
I lie here on this great immovable bed--it is nailed down, I
believe--and follow that pattern about by the hour. It is as
good as gymnastics, I assure you. I start, we'll say, at the
bottom, down in the corner over there where it has not been
touched, and I determine for the thousandth time that I WILL
follow that pointless pattern to some sort of a conclusion.
I know a little of the principle of design, and I know this
thing was not arranged on any laws of radiation, or alternation,
or repetition, or symmetry, or anything else that I ever heard
It is repeated, of course, by the breadths, but not
Looked at in one way each breadth stands alone, the bloated
curves and flourishes--a kind of "debased Romanesque" with
delirium tremens--go waddling up and down in isolated columns
But, on the other hand, they connect diagonally, and the
sprawling outlines run off in great slanting waves of optic
horror, like a lot of wallowing seaweeds in full chase.
The whole thing goes horizontally, too, at least it seems
so, and I exhaust myself in trying to distinguish the order of
its going in that direction.
They have used a horizontal breadth for a frieze, and that
adds wonderfully to the confusion.
There is one end of the room where it is almost intact, and
there, when the crosslights fade and the low sun shines directly
upon it, I can almost fancy radiation after all,--the
interminable grotesques seem to form around a common centre and
rush off in headlong plunges of equal distraction.
It makes me tired to follow it. I will take a nap I guess.
I don't know why I should write this.
I don't want to.
I don't feel able.
And I know John would think it absurd. But I MUST say
what I feel and think in some way--it is such a relief!
But the effort is getting to be greater than the relief.
Half the time now I am awfully lazy, and lie down ever so
John says I musn't lose my strength, and has me take
cod liver oil and lots of tonics and things, to say nothing of ale
and wine and rare meat.
Dear John! He loves me very dearly, and hates to have me
sick. I tried to have a real earnest reasonable talk with him
the other day, and tell him how I wish he would let me go and
make a visit to Cousin Henry and Julia.
But he said I wasn't able to go, nor able to stand it after
I got there; and I did not make out a very good case for myself,
for I was crying before I had finished.
It is getting to be a great effort for me to think straight.
Just this nervous weakness I suppose.
And dear John gathered me up in his arms, and just carried
me upstairs and laid me on the bed, and sat by me and read to me
till it tired my head.
He said I was his darling and his comfort and all he had,
and that I must take care of myself for his sake, and keep well.
He says no one but myself can help me out of it, that I must
use my will and self-control and not let any silly fancies run
away with me.
There's one comfort, the baby is well and happy, and does
not have to occupy this nursery with the horrid wall-paper.
If we had not used it, that blessed child would have! What
a fortunate escape! Why, I wouldn't have a child of mine, an
impressionable little thing, live in such a room for worlds.
I never thought of it before, but it is lucky that John kept
me here after all, I can stand it so much easier than a baby, you
Of course I never mention it to them any more--I am too
wise,--but I keep watch of it all the same.
There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me, or
Behind that outside pattern the dim shapes get clearer every
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!
It is so hard to talk with John about my case, because he is
so wise, and because he loves me so.
But I tried it last night.
It was moonlight. The moon shines in all around just as the
I hate to see it sometimes, it creeps so slowly, and always
comes in by one window or another.
John was asleep and I hated to waken him, so I kept still
and watched the moonlight on that undulating wall-paper till I
The faint figure behind seemed to shake the pattern, just as
if she wanted to get out.
I got up softly and went to feel and see if the paper DID
move, and when I came back John was awake.
"What is it, little girl?" he said. "Don't go walking about
like that--you'll get cold."
I though it was a good time to talk, so I told him that I
really was not gaining here, and that I wished he would take me
"Why darling!" said he, "our lease will be up in three
weeks, and I can't see how to leave before.
"The repairs are not done at home, and I cannot possibly
leave town just now. Of course if you were in any danger, I
could and would, but you really are better, dear, whether you can
see it or not. I am a doctor, dear, and I know. You are gaining
flesh and color, your appetite is better, I feel really much
easier about you."
"I don't weigh a bit more," said I, "nor as much; and my
appetite may be better in the evening when you are here, but it
is worse in the morning when you are away!"
"Bless her little heart!" said he with a big hug, "she shall
be as sick as she pleases! But now let's improve the shining
hours by going to sleep, and talk about it in the morning!"
"And you won't go away?" I asked gloomily.
"Why, how can I, dear? It is only three weeks more and then
we will take a nice little trip of a few days while Jennie is
getting the house ready. Really dear you are better!"
"Better in body perhaps--" I began, and stopped short, for
he sat up straight and looked at me with such a stern,
reproachful look that I could not say another word.
"My darling," said he, "I beg of you, for my sake and for
our child's sake, as well as for your own, that you will never
for one instant let that idea enter your mind! There is nothing
so dangerous, so fascinating, to a temperament like yours. It is
a false and foolish fancy. Can you not trust me as a physician
when I tell you so?"
So of course I said no more on that score, and we went to
sleep before long. He thought I was asleep first, but I wasn't,
and lay there for hours trying to decide whether that front
pattern and the back pattern really did move together or
On a pattern like this, by daylight, there is a lack of
sequence, a defiance of law, that is a constant irritant to a
The color is hideous enough, and unreliable enough, and
infuriating enough, but the pattern is torturing.
You think you have mastered it, but just as you get well
underway in following, it turns a back-somersault and there you
are. It slaps you in the face, knocks you down, and tramples
upon you. It is like a bad dream.
The outside pattern is a florid arabesque, reminding one of
a fungus. If you can imagine a toadstool in joints, an
interminable string of toadstools, budding and sprouting in
endless convolutions--why, that is something like it.
That is, sometimes!
There is one marked peculiarity about this paper, a thing
nobody seems to notice but myself,and that is that it changes as
the light changes.
When the sun shoots in through the east window--I always
watch for that first long, straight ray--it changes so quickly
that I never can quite believe it.
That is why I watch it always.
By moonlight--the moon shines in all night when there is a
moon--I wouldn't know it was the same paper.
At night in any kind of light, in twilight, candle light,
lamplight, and worst of all by moonlight, it becomes bars! The
outside pattern I mean, and the woman behind it is as plain as
I didn't realize for a long time what the thing was that
showed behind, that dim sub-pattern, but now I am quite sure it
is a woman.
By daylight she is subdued, quiet. I fancy it is the
pattern that keeps her so still. It is so puzzling. It keeps me
quiet by the hour.
I lie down ever so much now. John says it is good for me,
and to sleep all I can.
Indeed he started the habit by making me lie down for an
hour after each meal.
It is a very bad habit I am convinced, for you see I don't
And that cultivates deceit, for I don't tell them I'm
The fact is I am getting a little afraid of John.
He seems very queer sometimes, and even Jennie has an
It strikes me occasionally, just as a scientific
hypothesis,--that perhaps it is the paper!
I have watched John when he did not know I was looking, and
come into the room suddenly on the most innocent excuses, and
I've caught him several times LOOKING AT THE PAPER! And Jennie
too. I caught Jennie with her hand on it once.
She didn't know I was in the room, and when I asked her in a
quiet, a very quiet voice, with the most restrained manner
possible, what she was doing with the paper--she turned around as
if she had been caught stealing, and looked quite angry--asked me
why I should frighten her so!
Then she said that the paper stained everything it touched,
that she had found yellow smooches on all my clothes and John's,
and she wished we would be more careful!
Did not that sound innocent? But I know she was studying
that pattern, and I am determined that nobody shall find it out
Life is very much more exciting now than it used to be. You
see I have something more to expect, to look forward to, to
watch. I really do eat better, and am more quiet than I was.
John is so pleased to see me improve! He laughed a little
the other day, and said I seemed to be flourishing in spite of my
I turned it off with a laugh. I had no intention of telling
him it was BECAUSE of the wall-paper--he would make fun of me.
He might even want to take me away.
I don't want to leave now until I have found it out. There
is a week more, and I think that will be enough.
I'm feeling ever so much better! I don't sleep much at
night, for it is so interesting to watch developments; but I
sleep a good deal in the daytime.
In the daytime it is tiresome and perplexing.
There are always new shoots on the fungus, and new shades of
yellow all over it. I cannot keep count of them, though I have
It is the strangest yellow, that wall-paper! It makes me
think of all the yellow things I ever saw--not beautiful ones
like buttercups, but old foul, bad yellow things.
But there is something else about that paper--the smell! I
noticed it the moment we came into the room, but with so much air
and sun it was not bad. Now we have had a week of fog and rain,
and whether the windows are open or not, the smell is here.
It creeps all over the house.
I find it hovering in the dining-room, skulking in the
parlor, hiding in the hall, lying in wait for me on the stairs.
It gets into my hair.
Even when I go to ride, if I turn my head suddenly and
surprise it--there is that smell!
Such a peculiar odor, too! I have spent hours in trying to
analyze it, to find what it smelled like.
It is not bad--at first, and very gentle, but quite the
subtlest, most enduring odor I ever met.
In this damp weather it is awful, I wake up in the night and
find it hanging over me.
It used to disturb me at first. I thought seriously of
burning the house--to reach the smell.
But now I am used to it. The only thing I can think of that
it is like is the COLOR of the paper! A yellow smell.
There is a very funny mark on this wall, low down, near the
mopboard. A streak that runs round the room. It goes behind
every piece of furniture, except the bed, a long, straight, even
SMOOCH, as if it had been rubbed over and over.
I wonder how it was done and who did it, and what they did
it for. Round and round and round--round and round and round--it
makes me dizzy!
I really have discovered something at last.
Through watching so much at night, when it changes so, I
have finally found out.
The front pattern DOES move--and no wonder! The woman
behind shakes it!
Sometimes I think there are a great many women behind, and
sometimes only one, and she crawls around fast, and her crawling
shakes it all over.
Then in the very bright spots she keeps still, and in the
very shady spots she just takes hold of the bars and shakes them
And she is all the time trying to climb through. But nobody
could climb through that pattern--it strangles so; I think that
is why it has so many heads.
They get through, and then the pattern strangles them off
and turns them upside down, and makes their eyes white!
If those heads were covered or taken off it would not be
half so bad.
I think that woman gets out in the daytime!
And I'll tell you why--privately--I've seen her!
I can see her out of every one of my windows!
It is the same woman, I know, for she is always creeping,
and most women do not creep by daylight.
I see her on that long road under the trees, creeping along,
and when a carriage comes she hides under the blackberry vines.
I don't blame her a bit. It must be very humiliating to be
caught creeping by daylight!
I always lock the door when I creep by daylight. I can't do
it at night, for I know John would suspect something at once.
And John is so queer now, that I don't want to irritate him.
I wish he would take another room! Besides, I don't want anybody
to get that woman out at night but myself.
I often wonder if I could see her out of all the windows at
But, turn as fast as I can, I can only see out of one at a
And though I always see her, she MAY be able to creep
faster than I can turn!
I have watched her sometimes away off in the open country,
creeping as fast as a cloud shadow in a high wind.
If only that top pattern could be gotten off from the under
one! I mean to try it, little by little.
I have found out another funny thing, but I shan't tell it
this time! It does not do to trust people too much.
There are only two more days to get this paper off, and I
believe John is beginning to notice. I don't like the look in
And I heard him ask Jennie a lot of professional questions
about me. She had a very good report to give.
She said I slept a good deal in the daytime.
John knows I don't sleep very well at night, for all I'm so
He asked me all sorts of questions, too, and pretended to be
very loving and kind.
As if I couldn't see through him!
Still, I don't wonder he acts so, sleeping under this paper
for three months.
It only interests me, but I feel sure John and Jennie are
secretly affected by it.
The Yellow Wallpaper - Part 2