A woman suffering from an unnamed disease–sadness, nervousness, anxiety, mental fogginess–is told she must rest as much as possible. To that end, she and her husband have rented a house in the country, and she is confined to an upstairs room, with only a hideous, maddening yellow wallpaper for company.
Forbidden to read, write, see her children, or do work of any kind, the unnamed protagonist spends her time attempting to unravel the pattern within the wallpaper. She studies it so intently that she begins to see someone–a woman–trapped within the wallpaper. Determined to free the woman, she starts to unwind the wallpaper, even as her own mind starts to unravel.