Diction is the choice of words the author uses, or more specifically, the effect those words have upon the style and feel of his or her literary work. There are two subcategories that fall under diction, which are denotation and connotation. Denotation is the literal meaning of the words on the page; without diction, nothing would make sense at all. Connotation is the effect those words have upon the reader, and how the reader interprets them. Connotation, in essence, shows how literature isn't written in a vacuum. Without our experiences, slang, and knowledge, no word would hold any significance in our mind.
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.
The narrator begins The Yellow Wallpaper by telling us of an amazing summer cottage that her husband and herself have rented for a summer vacation. Her description of the house is one that makes you expect a mystery, speaking of ghosts and abandonment. However, this idea fades away to a discussion of herself. She says that she had been suffering from nervous depression, of which her husband does not believe. As a physician, he scoffed at her idea of the illness, diagnosing her only with inactivity and bed rest. In her boredom she starts a journal, and entertains herself by describing her surroundings. Eventually this comes to the yellow wallpaper in the room. This wallpaper is the cornerstone of the story.
“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.”
The key word that Gilman uses is 'fungus'. Dennotatively, the word fungus is “A eukaryotic single-celled or multi-nucleate organisms that live by decomposing and absorbing the organic material in which they grow, comprising the mushrooms, molds, mildews, smuts, rusts, and yeasts, and classified in the kingdom Fungi or, in some classification systems, in the division Fungi (Thallophyta) of the kingdom Plantae.” However, connotatively we get a much different meaning. Fungus is infectious. It lives and survives on dank, damp things, decomposing whatever is near it. With many fungi poisonous to humans, we also get a negative connotation towards fungus. 'Fungus' leaves us with a scathing view of the wallpaper. Imagine how it effects the woman as she interacts with it, rotting her brain and infecting her mental state. The wallpaper is ugly, and disturbing, giving the reader a dank and oppressed feeling when we interact with it. With this single word, Gilman portrays this complex and detailed emotion about the wallpaper, and with it one of postpartum depression. This oppressive, omnipotent feeling is one she wants us to carry about the experience that the narrator and she went through.
To further clarify the constant use of diction, there is a word in the last paragraph specially added to portray a certain emotion.
“'Fungus' leaves us with a scathing view of the wallpaper.”
The word scathing changes how this sentence feels. Although its definition: “bitterly severe, as a remark; harmful, injurious, or searing” can be denotatively imitated with words like 'nasty', 'bad', 'severe', or 'cold', they don't bear the same weight as scathing does. Connotatively, it is much harsher, and almost violent. It brings forth feelings of hate and anger, almost vengeance. This was the meaning scathing was meant to put across: mean and cruel, because Gilman's explanation of the wallpaper is very similar. Without the word scathing, the meaning wouldn't have come across the same way, and the narrator's interaction of the wallpaper could have been interpreted differently.