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Presented in the first person, the story is a collection of journal entries written by a woman whose physician husband (John) has rented an old mansion for the summer. Forgoing other rooms in the house, the couple moves into the upstairs nursery. As a form of treatment she is forbidden from working, and is encouraged to eat well and get plenty of exercise and air, so she can recuperate from what he calls a "temporary nervous depression – a slight hysterical tendency", a diagnosis common to women in that period. She hides her journal from her husband and his sister the housekeeper, fearful of being reproached for overworking herself. The room's windows are barred to prevent children from climbing through them, and there is a gate across the top of the stairs, though she and her husband have access to the rest of the house and its adjoining estate.
The story depicts the effect of understimulation on the narrator's mental health and her descent into psychosis. With nothing to stimulate her, she becomes obsessed by the pattern and color of the wallpaper. "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! ... The only thing I can think of that it is like is the color of the paper! A yellow smell."
Yuen leads listeners convincingly through this beautifully wrought 1892 short story. She begins the first-person narrative with the voice of a sensible if somewhat distraught young woman confined by her doctor husband to an attic room with hideous yellow wallpaper and bars on the windows. She is thought to have a nervous condition and is permitted no activity, including writing, lest it tire her. Eschewing melodrama, Yuen gradually changes tone and inflection as the weeks pass and the wife starts tearing down the wallpaper, perceives another woman behind it trying to get out, and finally descends into madness. It's a short, intoxicating listen that merits more than one replay.