The narrator in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” can be seen as both unreliable and reliable. The narrator is an unnamed woman who suffers from postpartum depression, which further heightens her already unreliable state of mind. Throughout the story, she experiences bouts of mental instability that cause her to become paranoid and delusional, thus adding to the overall theme of lack of trustworthiness in the narrative voice. For example, when she begins to see images in the wallpaper she declares: “I think there are a great many women behind it, and they are all making fun of me” (Gilman). This statement not only shows how delusional she has become but also serves as an indicator that her words cannot necessarily be taken at face value since they may be influenced by paranoia or delusion.
What makes the narrator in the “The Yellow Wallpaper” unreliable and quite reliable and full of integrity at the same time
On the other hand, parts of her unreliable narration contain moments where her words are full of integrity. Despite suffering from depression, she remains determined to fight back against society’s oppressive gender expectations that limit a woman’s ability to express emotions or have autonomy over their own decisions. Through this determination and resilience towards social normativity prove that the narrator is quite reliable when it comes those topics because it can be assumed that these statements come directly from personal experience rather than delusions or hysteria due to mental illness (Magness). Additionally, despite experiencing several episodes of psychosis during her stay in the room with yellow wallpaper; by narrating events as they unfold without judgement adds credibility to what is being said. This allows readers to make up their own minds while understanding why certain actions took place and even empathizing with them; thus increasing reliability within the narration on a whole.
Overall these two contradictory elements help build complexity within Gilman’s work because although some aspects within narrator’s voice may seem untrustworthy due its influence from mental illness; when placed into context one can understand why certain words were spoken out loud allowing for deeper connection between reader and character leading us feel more connected with protagonist journey towards liberation .