The narrator, who remains unnamed, is spending the summer in a rented house with her husband who also just happens to be a doctor. The narrator suffers from depression, thus her husband and other male family members force her to discontinue her writing (the only thing that brings her joy) and to spend her time in the one room she despises. This room is hideously ugly to her, as it's lined with an odd yellow wallpaper. As our narrator spends her days in this room due to her husband's orders, she begins to obsess over the wallpaper. She walks around the room tracing the pattern, convincing herself that there is a woman trapped inside and that she can smell the wallpaper from any point in the house, thus proving it is always on her mind. In addition, she wants no one else to examine the wallpaper so she may leave the mystery of it to herself, and because of this she becomes more and more secretive. As the time comes for them to leave the house she believes that she must set this woman free. Frantic, the narrator rips the wallpaper apart, "setting free" the woman who so longed to escape. As her husband enters the scene, he finds his wife crawling about the floor, continually peeling at the walls. She claims that she has set the woman free and therefore has set herself free. Her husband faints and she crawls over his body each time she circles the room, as she continues to do as it ends.
*You can read the whole short story here.
Pretty crazy, huh? But what does this have to do with feminism? I think it's pretty clear. The narrator, overshadowed by her husband's dominance, longs to be independent of him. He has stifled her creativity and taken away her joy, thus leading us to wonder if her depression was indeed influenced by his presence all along. This is an ode to women all around the globe. Our narrator was submissive and therefore left with many opinions unsaid. Alone in a room with only her thoughts and a lack of healthy communication between her and her partner, she drove herself to insanity.
So I think we get the message. A, don't buy yellow wallpaper. And B, don't let your partner constrain you (and if you're a guy, don't be that man who needs to control every aspect of your partner's life).
On a side note, if you want to read another short story about a woman who dies upon finding out that her husband is not actually dead like she previously thought, here you go. It's hilarious, in a horribly sadistic way.