Note: You can explore the associated workbook for this chapter in the cloud.

Variables are one of the fundamental building blocks of Python. A variable is like a tiny container where you store values and data, such as filenames, words, numbers, collections of words and numbers, and more.

Assigning Variables

The variable name will point to a value that you “assign” it. You might think about variable assignment like putting a value “into” the variable, as if the variable is a little box 🎁

You assign variables with an equals = sign. In Python, a single equals sign = is the “assignment operator.” A double equals sign == is the “real” equals sign.

new_variable = 100
2 * 2 == 4
different_variable = "I'm another variable!"
I'm another variable!

Let’s look at some of the variables that we used when we counted the most frequent words in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.”

# Import Libraries and Modules

import re
from collections import Counter

# Define Functions

def split_into_words(any_chunk_of_text):
    lowercase_text = any_chunk_of_text.lower()
    split_words = re.split("\W+", lowercase_text)
    return split_words

# Define Filepaths and Assign Variables

filepath_of_text = "../texts/literature/The-Yellow-Wallpaper_Charlotte-Perkins-Gilman.txt"
number_of_desired_words = 40

stopwords = ['i', 'me', 'my', 'myself', 'we', 'our', 'ours', 'ourselves', 'you', 'your', 'yours',
'yourself', 'yourselves', 'he', 'him', 'his', 'himself', 'she', 'her', 'hers',
 'herself', 'it', 'its', 'itself', 'they', 'them', 'their', 'theirs', 'themselves',
 'what', 'which', 'who', 'whom', 'this', 'that', 'these', 'those', 'am', 'is', 'are',
 'was', 'were', 'be', 'been', 'being', 'have', 'has', 'had', 'having', 'do', 'does',
 'did', 'doing', 'a', 'an', 'the', 'and', 'but', 'if', 'or', 'because', 'as', 'until',
 'while', 'of', 'at', 'by', 'for', 'with', 'about', 'against', 'between', 'into',
 'through', 'during', 'before', 'after', 'above', 'below', 'to', 'from', 'up', 'down',
 'in', 'out', 'on', 'off', 'over', 'under', 'again', 'further', 'then', 'once', 'here',
 'there', 'when', 'where', 'why', 'how', 'all', 'any', 'both', 'each', 'few', 'more',
 'most', 'other', 'some', 'such', 'no', 'nor', 'not', 'only', 'own', 'same', 'so',
 'than', 'too', 'very', 's', 't', 'can', 'will', 'just', 'don', 'should', 'now', 've', 'll', 'amp']

# Read in File

full_text = open(filepath_of_text, encoding="utf-8").read()

# Manipulate and Analyze File

all_the_words = split_into_words(full_text)
meaningful_words = [word for word in all_the_words if word not in stopwords]
meaningful_words_tally = Counter(meaningful_words)
most_frequent_meaningful_words = meaningful_words_tally.most_common(number_of_desired_words)

# Output Results

[('john', 45),
 ('one', 33),
 ('said', 30),
 ('would', 27),
 ('get', 24),
 ('see', 24),
 ('room', 24),
 ('pattern', 24),
 ('paper', 23),
 ('like', 21),
 ('little', 20),
 ('much', 16),
 ('good', 16),
 ('think', 16),
 ('well', 15),
 ('know', 15),
 ('go', 15),
 ('really', 14),
 ('thing', 14),
 ('wallpaper', 13),
 ('night', 13),
 ('long', 12),
 ('course', 12),
 ('things', 12),
 ('take', 12),
 ('always', 12),
 ('could', 12),
 ('jennie', 12),
 ('great', 11),
 ('says', 11),
 ('feel', 11),
 ('even', 11),
 ('used', 11),
 ('dear', 11),
 ('time', 11),
 ('enough', 11),
 ('away', 11),
 ('want', 11),
 ('never', 10),
 ('must', 10)]

We made the variables:

  • filepath_of_text

  • stopwords

  • number_of_desired_words

  • full_text

filepath_of_text = "../texts/literature/The-Yellow-Wallpaper_Charlotte-Perkins-Gilman.txt"
number_of_desired_words = 40
stopwords = ['i', 'me', 'my', 'myself', 'we', 'our', 'ours', 'ourselves', 'you', 'your', 'yours',
 'yourself', 'yourselves', 'he', 'him', 'his', 'himself', 'she', 'her', 'hers',
 'herself', 'it', 'its', 'itself', 'they', 'them', 'their', 'theirs', 'themselves',
 'what', 'which', 'who', 'whom', 'this', 'that', 'these', 'those', 'am', 'is', 'are',
 'was', 'were', 'be', 'been', 'being', 'have', 'has', 'had', 'having', 'do', 'does',
 'did', 'doing', 'a', 'an', 'the', 'and', 'but', 'if', 'or', 'because', 'as', 'until',
 'while', 'of', 'at', 'by', 'for', 'with', 'about', 'against', 'between', 'into',
 'through', 'during', 'before', 'after', 'above', 'below', 'to', 'from', 'up', 'down',
 'in', 'out', 'on', 'off', 'over', 'under', 'again', 'further', 'then', 'once', 'here',
 'there', 'when', 'where', 'why', 'how', 'all', 'any', 'both', 'each', 'few', 'more',
 'most', 'other', 'some', 'such', 'no', 'nor', 'not', 'only', 'own', 'same', 'so',
 'than', 'too', 'very', 's', 't', 'can', 'will', 'just', 'don', 'should', 'now', 've', 'll', 'amp']

full_text = open(filepath_of_text, encoding="utf-8").read()

Jupyter Display vs Print()

We can check to see what’s “inside” these variables by running a cell with the variable’s name. This is one of the handiest features of a Jupyter notebook. Outside the Jupyter environment, you would need to use the print() function to display the variable.


Your turn! Pick another variable from the script above and see what’s inside it below.


You can run the print function inside the Jupyter environment, too. This is sometimes useful because Jupyter will only display the last variable in a cell, while print() can display multiple variables. Additionally, Jupyter will display text with \n characters (which means “new line”), while print() will display the text appropriately formatted with new lines.

For example, with the print() function, each of the variables are printed, and the “The Yellow Wallpaper” is properly formatted with new lines.

['i', 'me', 'my', 'myself', 'we', 'our', 'ours', 'ourselves', 'you', 'your', 'yours', 'yourself', 'yourselves', 'he', 'him', 'his', 'himself', 'she', 'her', 'hers', 'herself', 'it', 'its', 'itself', 'they', 'them', 'their', 'theirs', 'themselves', 'what', 'which', 'who', 'whom', 'this', 'that', 'these', 'those', 'am', 'is', 'are', 'was', 'were', 'be', 'been', 'being', 'have', 'has', 'had', 'having', 'do', 'does', 'did', 'doing', 'a', 'an', 'the', 'and', 'but', 'if', 'or', 'because', 'as', 'until', 'while', 'of', 'at', 'by', 'for', 'with', 'about', 'against', 'between', 'into', 'through', 'during', 'before', 'after', 'above', 'below', 'to', 'from', 'up', 'down', 'in', 'out', 'on', 'off', 'over', 'under', 'again', 'further', 'then', 'once', 'here', 'there', 'when', 'where', 'why', 'how', 'all', 'any', 'both', 'each', 'few', 'more', 'most', 'other', 'some', 'such', 'no', 'nor', 'not', 'only', 'own', 'same', 'so', 'than', 'too', 'very', 's', 't', 'can', 'will', 'just', 'don', 'should', 'now', 've', 'll', 'amp']

By Charlotte Perkins Gilman

It is very seldom that mere ordinary people like John and myself secure
ancestral halls for the summer.

A colonial mansion, a hereditary estate, I would say a haunted house, and
reach the height of romantic felicity—but that would be asking too
much of fate!

Still I will proudly declare that there is something queer about it.

Else, why should it be let so cheaply? And why have stood so long

John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage.

John is practical in the extreme. He has no patience with faith, an
intense horror of superstition, and he scoffs openly at any talk of things
not to be felt and seen and put down in figures.

John is a physician, and perhaps—(I would not say it to a living
soul, of course, but this is dead paper and a great relief to my
mind)—perhaps that is one reason I do not get well faster.

You see, he does not believe I am sick!

And what can one do?

If a physician of high standing, and one’s own husband, assures friends
and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but
temporary nervous depression—a slight hysterical tendency—what
is one to do?

My brother is also a physician, and also of high standing, and he says the
same thing.

So I take phosphates or phosphites—whichever it is, and tonics, and
journeys, and air, and exercise, and am absolutely forbidden to “work”
until I am well again.

Personally, I disagree with their ideas.

Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change,
would do me good.

But what is one to do?

I did write for a while in spite of them; but it does exhaust me a good
deal—having to be so sly about it, or else meet with heavy

I sometimes fancy that in my condition if I had less opposition and more
society and stimulus—but John says the very worst thing I can do is
to think about my condition, and I confess it always makes me feel bad.

So I will let it alone and talk about the house.

The most beautiful place! It is quite alone, standing well back from the
road, quite three miles from the village. It makes me think of English
places that you read about, for there are hedges and walls and gates that
lock, and lots of separate little houses for the gardeners and people.

There is a delicious garden! I never saw such a garden—large and
shady, full of box-bordered paths, and lined with long grape-covered
arbors with seats under them.

There were greenhouses, too, but they are all broken now.

There was some legal trouble, I believe, something about the heirs and
co-heirs; anyhow, the place has been empty for years.

That spoils my ghostliness, I am afraid; but I don’t care—there is
something strange about the house—I can feel it.

I even said so to John one moonlight evening, but he said what I felt was
a draught, and shut the window.

I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes. I’m sure I never used to be
so sensitive. I think it is due to this nervous condition.

But John says if I feel so I shall neglect proper self-control; so I take
pains to control myself,—before him, at least,—and that makes
me very tired.

I don’t like our room a bit. I wanted one downstairs that opened on the
piazza and had roses all over the window, and such pretty old-fashioned
chintz hangings! but John would not hear of it.

He said there was only one window and not room for two beds, and no near
room for him if he took another.

He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special

I have a schedule prescription for each hour in the day; he takes all care
from me, and so I feel basely ungrateful not to value it more.

He said we came here solely on my account, that I was to have perfect rest
and all the air I could get. “Your exercise depends on your strength, my
dear,” said he, “and your food somewhat on your appetite; but air you
can absorb all the time.” So we took the nursery, at the top of the house.

It is a big, airy room, the whole floor nearly, with windows that look all
ways, and air and sunshine galore. It was nursery first and then
and gymnasium, I should judge; for the windows are barred for little
children, and there are rings and things in the walls.

The paint and paper look as if a boys’ school had used it. It is stripped
off—the paper—in great patches all around the head of my bed,
about as far as I can reach, and in a great place on the other side of the
room low down. I never saw a worse paper in my life.

One of those sprawling flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin.

It is dull enough to confuse the eye in following, pronounced enough to
constantly irritate, and provoke study, and when you follow the lame,
uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide—plunge
off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard-of contradictions.

The color is repellant, almost revolting; a smouldering, unclean yellow,
strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight.

It is a dull yet lurid orange in some places, a sickly sulphur tint in

No wonder the children hated it! I should hate it myself if I had to live
in this room long.

There comes John, and I must put this away,—he hates to have me
write a word.

We have been here two weeks, and I haven’t felt like writing before, since
that first day.

I am sitting by the window now, up in this atrocious nursery, and there is
nothing to hinder my writing as much as I please, save lack of strength.

John is away all day, and even some nights when his cases are serious.

I am glad my case is not serious!

But these nervous troubles are dreadfully depressing.

John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no reason
to suffer, and that satisfies him.

Of course it is only nervousness. It does weigh on me so not to do my duty
in any way!

I meant to be such a help to John, such a real rest and comfort, and here
I am a comparative burden already!

Nobody would believe what an effort it is to do what little I am able—to
dress and entertain, and order things.

It is fortunate Mary is so good with the baby. Such a dear baby!

And yet I cannot be with him, it makes me so nervous.

I suppose John never was nervous in his life. He laughs at me so about
this wallpaper!

At first he meant to repaper the room, but afterwards he said that I was
letting it get the better of me, and that nothing was worse for a nervous
patient than to give way to such fancies.

He said that after the wallpaper was changed it would be the heavy
bedstead, and then the barred windows, and then that gate at the head of
the stairs, and so on.

“You know the place is doing you good,” he said, “and really, dear, I
don’t care to renovate the house just for a three months’ rental.”

“Then do let us go downstairs,” I said, “there are such pretty rooms

Then he took me in his arms and called me a blessed little goose, and said
he would go down cellar if I wished, and have it whitewashed into
the bargain.

But he is right enough about the beds and windows and things.

It is as airy and comfortable a room as any one need wish, and, of course,
would not be so silly as to make him uncomfortable just for a whim.

I’m really getting quite fond of the big room, all but that horrid paper.

Out of one window I can see the garden, those mysterious deep-shaded
arbors, the riotous old-fashioned flowers, and bushes and gnarly trees.

Out of another I get a lovely view of the bay and a little private wharf
belonging to the estate. There is a beautiful shaded lane that runs down
there from the house. I always fancy I see people walking in these
numerous paths and arbors, but John has cautioned me not to give way to
fancy in the least. He says that with my imaginative power and habit of
story-making a nervous weakness like mine is sure to lead to all manner
of excited fancies, and that I ought to use my will and good sense to
check the tendency. So I try.

I think sometimes that if I were only well enough to write a little it
would relieve the press of ideas and rest me.

But I find I get pretty tired when I try.

It is so discouraging not to have any advice and companionship about my
work. When I get really well John says we will ask Cousin Henry and Julia
down for a long visit; but he says he would as soon put fire-works in my
pillow-case as to let me have those stimulating people about now.

I wish I could get well faster.

But I must not think about that. This paper looks to me as if it knew what
a vicious influence it had!

There is a recurrent spot where the pattern lolls like a broken neck and
two bulbous eyes stare at you upside-down.

I get positively angry with the impertinence of it and the
everlastingness. Up and down and sideways they crawl, and those absurd,
unblinking eyes are everywhere. There is one place where two breadths
didn’t match, and the eyes go all up and down the line, one a little
higher than the other.

I never saw so much expression in an inanimate thing before, and we all
know how much expression they have! I used to lie awake as a child and get
more entertainment and terror out of blank walls and plain furniture than
most children could find in a toy-store.

I remember what a kindly wink the knobs of our big old bureau used to
have, and there was one chair that always seemed like a strong friend.

I used to feel that if any of the other things looked too fierce I could
always hop into that chair and be safe.

The furniture in this room is no worse than inharmonious, however, for we
had to bring it all from downstairs. I suppose when this was used as a
playroom they had to take the nursery things out, and no wonder! I never
saw such ravages as the children have made here.

The wallpaper, as I said before, is torn off in spots, and it sticketh
closer than a brother—they must have had perseverance as well as

Then the floor is scratched and gouged and splintered, the plaster itself
is dug out here and there, and this great heavy bed, which is all we found
in the room, looks as if it had been through the wars.

But I don’t mind it a bit—only the paper.

There comes John’s sister. Such a dear girl as she is, and so careful of
me! I must not let her find me writing.

She is a perfect, and enthusiastic housekeeper, and hopes for no better
profession. I verily believe she thinks it is the writing which made me

But I can write when she is out, and see her a long way off from these

There is one that commands the road, a lovely, shaded, winding road, and
that just looks off over the country. A lovely country, too, full of great
elms and velvet meadows.

This wallpaper has a kind of sub-pattern in a different shade, a
particularly irritating one, for you can only see it in certain lights,
and not clearly then.

But in the places where it isn’t faded, and where the sun is just so, I
can see a strange, provoking, formless sort of figure, that seems to sulk
about behind that silly and conspicuous front design.

There’s sister on the stairs!

Well, the Fourth of July is over! The people are gone and I am tired out.
John thought it might do me good to see a little company, so we just had
mother and Nellie and the children down for a week.

Of course I didn’t do a thing. Jennie sees to everything now.

But it tired me all the same.

John says if I don’t pick up faster he shall send me to Weir Mitchell in
the fall.

But I don’t want to go there at all. I had a friend who was in his hands
once, and she says he is just like John and my brother, only more so!

Besides, it is such an undertaking to go so far.

I don’t feel as if it was worth while to turn my hand over for anything,
and I’m getting dreadfully fretful and querulous.

I cry at nothing, and cry most of the time.

Of course I don’t when John is here, or anybody else, but when I am alone.

And I am alone a good deal just now. John is kept in town very often by
serious cases, and Jennie is good and lets me alone when I want her to.

So I walk a little in the garden or down that lovely lane, sit on the
porch under the roses, and lie down up here a good deal.

I’m getting really fond of the room in spite of the wallpaper. Perhaps
because of the wallpaper.

It dwells in my mind so!

I lie here on this great immovable bed—it is nailed down, I believe—and
follow that pattern about by the hour. It is as good as gymnastics, I
assure you. I start, we’ll say, at the bottom, down in the corner over
there where it has not been touched, and I determine for the thousandth
time that I will follow that pointless pattern to some sort of a

I know a little of the principle of design, and I know this thing was not
arranged on any laws of radiation, or alternation, or repetition, or
symmetry, or anything else that I ever heard of.

It is repeated, of course, by the breadths, but not otherwise.

Looked at in one way each breadth stands alone, the bloated curves and
flourishes—a kind of “debased Romanesque” with delirium
tremens—go waddling up and down in isolated columns of fatuity.

But, on the other hand, they connect diagonally, and the sprawling
outlines run off in great slanting waves of optic horror, like a lot of
wallowing seaweeds in full chase.

The whole thing goes horizontally, too, at least it seems so, and I
exhaust myself in trying to distinguish the order of its going in that

They have used a horizontal breadth for a frieze, and that adds
wonderfully to the confusion.

There is one end of the room where it is almost intact, and there, when
the cross-lights fade and the low sun shines directly upon it, I can
fancy radiation after all,—the interminable grotesques seem to form
around a common centre and rush off in headlong plunges of equal

It makes me tired to follow it. I will take a nap, I guess.

I don’t know why I should write this.

I don’t want to.

I don’t feel able.

And I know John would think it absurd. But I must say what I feel and
think in some way—it is such a relief!

But the effort is getting to be greater than the relief.

Half the time now I am awfully lazy, and lie down ever so much.

John says I musn’t lose my strength, and has me take cod-liver oil and
lots of tonics and things, to say nothing of ale and wine and rare meat.

Dear John! He loves me very dearly, and hates to have me sick. I tried to
have a real earnest reasonable talk with him the other day, and tell him
how I wish he would let me go and make a visit to Cousin Henry and Julia.

But he said I wasn’t able to go, nor able to stand it after I got there;
and I did not make out a very good case for myself, for I was crying
before I had finished.

It is getting to be a great effort for me to think straight. Just this
nervous weakness, I suppose.

And dear John gathered me up in his arms, and just carried me upstairs and
laid me on the bed, and sat by me and read to me till it tired my head.

He said I was his darling and his comfort and all he had, and that I must
take care of myself for his sake, and keep well.

He says no one but myself can help me out of it, that I must use my will
and self-control and not let any silly fancies run away with me.

There’s one comfort, the baby is well and happy, and does not have to
occupy this nursery with the horrid wallpaper.

If we had not used it that blessed child would have! What a fortunate
escape! Why, I wouldn’t have a child of mine, an impressionable little
thing, live in such a room for worlds.

I never thought of it before, but it is lucky that John kept me here after
all. I can stand it so much easier than a baby, you see.

Of course I never mention it to them any more,—I am too wise,—but
I keep watch of it all the same.

There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me, or ever will.

Behind that outside pattern the dim shapes get clearer every day.

It is always the same shape, only very numerous.

And it is like a woman stooping down and creeping about behind that
pattern. I don’t like it a bit. I wonder—I begin to think—I
wish John would take me away from here!

It is so hard to talk with John about my case, because he is so wise, and
because he loves me so.

But I tried it last night.

It was moonlight. The moon shines in all around, just as the sun does.

I hate to see it sometimes, it creeps so slowly, and always comes in by
one window or another.

John was asleep and I hated to waken him, so I kept still and watched the
moonlight on that undulating wallpaper till I felt creepy.

The faint figure behind seemed to shake the pattern, just as if she wanted
to get out.

I got up softly and went to feel and see if the paper did move, and when I
came back John was awake.

“What is it, little girl?” he said. “Don’t go walking
about like that—you’ll get cold.”

I though it was a good time to talk, so I told him that I really was not
gaining here, and that I wished he would take me away.

“Why darling!” said he, “our lease will be up in three
weeks, and I can’t see how to leave before.

“The repairs are not done at home, and I cannot possibly leave town just
now. Of course if you were in any danger I could and would, but you
really are better, dear, whether you can see it or not. I am a doctor,
dear, and I know. You are gaining flesh and color, your appetite is
better. I feel really much easier about you.”

“I don’t weigh a bit more,” said I, “nor as much; and
my appetite may be better in the evening, when you are here, but it is
in the morning when you are away.”

“Bless her little heart!” said he with a big hug; “she shall be as sick as
she pleases! But now let’s improve the shining hours by going to sleep,
and talk about it in the morning!”

“And you won’t go away?” I asked gloomily.

“Why, how can I, dear? It is only three weeks more and then we will take a
nice little trip of a few days while Jennie is getting the house ready.
Really, dear, you are better!”

“Better in body perhaps”—I began, and stopped short, for he sat up
straight and looked at me with such a stern, reproachful look that I could
not say another word.

“My darling,” said he, “I beg of you, for my sake and for our child’s
sake, as well as for your own, that you will never for one instant let
that idea enter your mind! There is nothing so dangerous, so fascinating,
to a temperament like yours. It is a false and foolish fancy. Can you not
trust me as a physician when I tell you so?”

So of course I said no more on that score, and we went to sleep before
long. He thought I was asleep first, but I wasn’t,—I lay there for hours
trying to decide whether that front pattern and the back pattern really
did move together or separately.

On a pattern like this, by daylight, there is a lack of sequence, a
defiance of law, that is a constant irritant to a normal mind.

The color is hideous enough, and unreliable enough, and infuriating
enough, but the pattern is torturing.

You think you have mastered it, but just as you get well under way in
following, it turns a back somersault and there you are. It slaps you in
the face, knocks you down, and tramples upon you. It is like a bad dream.

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.

That is, sometimes!

There is one marked peculiarity about this paper, a thing nobody seems to
notice but myself, and that is that it changes as the light changes.

When the sun shoots in through the east window—I always watch for
that first long, straight ray—it changes so quickly that I never can
quite believe it.

That is why I watch it always.

By moonlight—the moon shines in all night when there is a moon—I
wouldn’t know it was the same paper.

At night in any kind of light, in twilight, candlelight, lamplight, and
worst of all by moonlight, it becomes bars! The outside pattern I mean,
and the woman behind it is as plain as can be.

I didn’t realize for a long time what the thing was that showed
behind,—that dim sub-pattern,—but now I am quite sure it is a woman.

By daylight she is subdued, quiet. I fancy it is the pattern that keeps
her so still. It is so puzzling. It keeps me quiet by the hour.

I lie down ever so much now. John says it is good for me, and to sleep all
I can.

Indeed, he started the habit by making me lie down for an hour after each

It is a very bad habit, I am convinced, for, you see, I don’t sleep.

And that cultivates deceit, for I don’t tell them I’m
awake,—oh, no!

The fact is, I am getting a little afraid of John.

He seems very queer sometimes, and even Jennie has an inexplicable look.

It strikes me occasionally, just as a scientific hypothesis, that
perhaps it is the paper!

I have watched John when he did not know I was looking, and come into the
room suddenly on the most innocent excuses, and I’ve caught him several
times looking at the paper! And Jennie too. I caught Jennie with her hand
on it once.

She didn’t know I was in the room, and when I asked her in a quiet, a very
quiet voice, with the most restrained manner possible, what she was doing
with the paper she turned around as if she had been caught stealing,
and looked quite angry—asked me why I should frighten her so!

Then she said that the paper stained everything it touched, that she had
found yellow smooches on all my clothes and John’s, and she wished we
would be more careful!

Did not that sound innocent? But I know she was studying that pattern, and
I am determined that nobody shall find it out but myself!

Life is very much more exciting now than it used to be. You see I have
something more to expect, to look forward to, to watch. I really do eat
better, and am more quiet than I was.

John is so pleased to see me improve! He laughed a little the other day,
and said I seemed to be flourishing in spite of my wallpaper.

I turned it off with a laugh. I had no intention of telling him it was
because of the wallpaper—he would make fun of me. He might even
want to take me away.

I don’t want to leave now until I have found it out. There is a week more,
and I think that will be enough.

I’m feeling ever so much better! I don’t sleep much at night, for it is so
interesting to watch developments; but I sleep a good deal in the daytime.

In the daytime it is tiresome and perplexing.

There are always new shoots on the fungus, and new shades of yellow all
over it. I cannot keep count of them, though I have tried conscientiously.

It is the strangest yellow, that wallpaper! 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! I noticed it
the moment we came into the room, but with so much air and sun it was not
bad. Now we have had a week of fog and rain, and whether the windows are
open or not, the smell is here.

It creeps all over the house.

I find it hovering in the dining-room, skulking in the parlor, hiding in
the hall, lying in wait for me on the stairs.

It gets into my hair.

Even when I go to ride, if I turn my head suddenly and surprise it—there
is that smell!

Such a peculiar odor, too! I have spent hours in trying to analyze it, to
find what it smelled like.

It is not bad—at first, and very gentle, but quite the subtlest,
most enduring odor I ever met.

In this damp weather it is awful. I wake up in the night and find it
hanging over me.

It used to disturb me at first. I thought seriously of burning the
reach the smell.

But now I am used to it. The only thing I can think of that it is like is
the color of the paper! A yellow smell.

There is a very funny mark on this wall, low down, near the mopboard. A
streak that runs round the room. It goes behind every piece of furniture,
except the bed, a long, straight, even smooch, as if it had been rubbed
over and over.

I wonder how it was done and who did it, and what they did it for. Round
and round and round—round and round and round—it makes me

I really have discovered something at last.

Through watching so much at night, when it changes so, I have finally
found out.

The front pattern does move—and no wonder! The woman behind shakes

Sometimes I think there are a great many women behind, and sometimes only
one, and she crawls around fast, and her crawling shakes it all over.

Then in the very bright spots she keeps still, and in the very shady spots
she just takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard.

And she is all the time trying to climb through. But nobody could climb
through that pattern—it strangles so; I think that is why it has so
many heads.

They get through, and then the pattern strangles them off and turns them
upside-down, and makes their eyes white!

If those heads were covered or taken off it would not be half so bad.

I think that woman gets out in the daytime!

And I’ll tell you why—privately—I’ve seen her!

I can see her out of every one of my windows!

It is the same woman, I know, for she is always creeping, and most women
do not creep by daylight.

I see her on that long shaded lane, creeping up and down. I see her in
dark grape arbors, creeping all around the garden.

I see her on that long road under the trees, creeping along, and when a
carriage comes she hides under the blackberry vines.

I don’t blame her a bit. It must be very humiliating to be caught creeping
by daylight!

I always lock the door when I creep by daylight. I can’t do it at night,
for I know John would suspect something at once.

And John is so queer now, that I don’t want to irritate him. I wish he
would take another room! Besides, I don’t want anybody to get that woman
out at night but myself.

I often wonder if I could see her out of all the windows at once.

But, turn as fast as I can, I can only see out of one at one time.

And though I always see her she may be able to creep faster than I can

I have watched her sometimes away off in the open country, creeping as
fast as a cloud shadow in a high wind.

If only that top pattern could be gotten off from the under one! I mean to
try it, little by little.

I have found out another funny thing, but I shan’t tell it this time! It
does not do to trust people too much.

There are only two more days to get this paper off, and I believe John is
beginning to notice. I don’t like the look in his eyes.

And I heard him ask Jennie a lot of professional questions about me. She
had a very good report to give.

She said I slept a good deal in the daytime.

John knows I don’t sleep very well at night, for all I’m so quiet!

He asked me all sorts of questions, too, and pretended to be very loving
and kind.

As if I couldn’t see through him!

Still, I don’t wonder he acts so, sleeping under this paper for three

It only interests me, but I feel sure John and Jennie are secretly
affected by it.

Hurrah! This is the last day, but it is enough. John is to stay in town
over night, and won’t be out until this evening.

Jennie wanted to sleep with me—the sly thing! but I told her I
should undoubtedly rest better for a night all alone.

That was clever, for really I wasn’t alone a bit! As soon as it was
moonlight, and that poor thing began to crawl and shake the pattern, I got
up and ran to help her.

I pulled and she shook, I shook and she pulled, and before morning we had
peeled off yards of that paper.

A strip about as high as my head and half around the room.

And then when the sun came and that awful pattern began to laugh at me I
declared I would finish it to-day!

We go away to-morrow, and they are moving all my furniture down again to
leave things as they were before.

Jennie looked at the wall in amazement, but I told her merrily that I did
it out of pure spite at the vicious thing.

She laughed and said she wouldn’t mind doing it herself, but I must not
get tired.

How she betrayed herself that time!

But I am here, and no person touches this paper but me—not alive!

She tried to get me out of the room—it was too patent! But I said it
was so quiet and empty and clean now that I believed I would lie down
again and sleep all I could; and not to wake me even for dinner—I
would call when I woke.

So now she is gone, and the servants are gone, and the things are gone,
and there is nothing left but that great bedstead nailed down, with the
canvas mattress we found on it.

We shall sleep downstairs to-night, and take the boat home to-morrow.

I quite enjoy the room, now it is bare again.

How those children did tear about here!

This bedstead is fairly gnawed!

But I must get to work.

I have locked the door and thrown the key down into the front path.

I don’t want to go out, and I don’t want to have anybody come in, till
John comes.

I want to astonish him.

I’ve got a rope up here that even Jennie did not find. If that woman does
get out, and tries to get away, I can tie her!

But I forgot I could not reach far without anything to stand on!

This bed will not move!

I tried to lift and push it until I was lame, and then I got so angry I
bit off a little piece at one corner—but it hurt my teeth.

Then I peeled off all the paper I could reach standing on the floor. It
sticks horribly and the pattern just enjoys it! All those strangled heads
and bulbous eyes and waddling fungus growths just shriek with derision!

I am getting angry enough to do something desperate. To jump out of the
window would be admirable exercise, but the bars are too strong even to

Besides I wouldn’t do it. Of course not. I know well enough that a step
like that is improper and might be misconstrued.

I don’t like to look out of the windows even—there are so many of
those creeping women, and they creep so fast.

I wonder if they all come out of that wallpaper as I did?

But I am securely fastened now by my well-hidden rope—you don’t get
me out in the road there!

I suppose I shall have to get back behind the pattern when it comes night,
and that is hard!

It is so pleasant to be out in this great room and creep around as I

I don’t want to go outside. I won’t, even if Jennie asks me to.

For outside you have to creep on the ground, and everything is green
instead of yellow.

But here I can creep smoothly on the floor, and my shoulder just fits in
that long smooch around the wall, so I cannot lose my way.

Why, there’s John at the door!

It is no use, young man, you can’t open it!

How he does call and pound!

Now he’s crying for an axe.

It would be a shame to break down that beautiful door!

“John dear!” said I in the gentlest voice, “the key is down by the front
steps, under a plantain leaf!”

That silenced him for a few moments.

Then he said—very quietly indeed, “Open the door, my darling!”

“I can’t,” said I. “The key is down by the front door under a plantain

And then I said it again, several times, very gently and slowly, and said
it so often that he had to go and see, and he got it, of course, and came
in. He stopped short by the door.

“What is the matter?” he cried. “For God’s sake, what are you doing!”

I kept on creeping just the same, but I looked at him over my shoulder.

“I’ve got out at last,” said I, “in spite of you and Jane!
And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back!”

Now why should that man have fainted? But he did, and right across my path
by the wall, so that I had to creep over him every time!

Variable Names

Though we named our variables filepath_of_text, stopwords,number_of_desired_words, and full_text, we could have named them almost anything else.

Variable names can be as long or as short as you want, and they can include:

  • upper and lower-case letters (A-Z)

  • digits (0-9)

  • underscores (_)

However, variable names cannot include:

  • ❌ other punctuation (-.!?@)

  • ❌ spaces ( )

  • ❌ a reserved Python word

Instead of filepath_of_text, we could have simply named the variable filepath.

filepath = "../texts/literature/The-Yellow-Wallpaper_Charlotte-Perkins-Gilman.txt"

Or we could have gone even simpler and named the filepath f.

f = "../texts/literature/The-Yellow-Wallpaper_Charlotte-Perkins-Gilman.txt"

Striving for Good Variable Names

As you start to code, you will almost certainly be tempted to use extremely short variables names like f. Your fingers will get tired. Your coffee will wear off. You will see other people using variables like f. You’ll promise yourself that you’ll definitely remember what f means. But you probably won’t.

So, resist the temptation of bad variable names! Clear and precisely-named variables will:

  • make your code more readable (both to yourself and others)

  • reinforce your understanding of Python and what’s happening in the code

  • clarify and strengthen your thinking

Example Python Code ❌ With Unclear Variable Names❌

For the sake of illustration, here’s some of our same word count Python code with poorly named variables. The code works exactly the same as our original code, but it’s a lot harder to read.

def sp(t):
    lt = t.lower()
    sw = re.split("\W+", lt)
    return sw

f = "../texts/literature/The-Yellow-Wallpaper_Charlotte-Perkins-Gilman.txt"
ft = open(f, encoding="utf-8").read()

words = sp(ft)

Example Python Code ✨ With Clearer Variable Names ✨

def split_into_words(any_chunk_of_text):
    lowercase_text = any_chunk_of_text.lower()
    split_words = re.split("\W+", lowercase_text)
    return split_words

filepath_of_text = "../texts/literature/The-Yellow-Wallpaper_Charlotte-Perkins-Gilman.txt"
full_text = open(filepath_of_text, encoding="utf-8").read()

all_the_words = split_into_words(full_text)

Off-Limits Names

The only variable names that are off-limits are names that are reserved by, or built into, the Python programming language itself — such as print, True, and list.

This is not something to worry too much about. You’ll know very quickly if a name is reserved by Python because it will show up in green and often give you an error message.

True = "../texts/literature/The-Yellow-Wallpaper_Charlotte-Perkins-Gilman.txt"
  File "<ipython-input-10-fbaebf398d20>", line 1
    True = "../texts/The-Yellow-Wallpaper.txt"
SyntaxError: can't assign to keyword

Re-Assigning Variables

Variable assignment does not set a variable in stone. You can later re-assign the same variable a different value.

For instance, I could re-assign filepath_of_text to the filepath for the lyrics of Beyonce’s album Lemonade instead of Perkins-Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.”

filepath_of_text = "../texts/music/Beyonce-Lemonade.txt"

If I change this one variable in our example code, then we get the most frequent words for Lemonade.

import re
from collections import Counter

def split_into_words(any_chunk_of_text):
    lowercase_text = any_chunk_of_text.lower()
    split_words = re.split("\W+", lowercase_text)
    return split_words

filepath_of_text = "../texts/music/Beyonce-Lemonade.txt"
number_of_desired_words = 40

stopwords = ['i', 'me', 'my', 'myself', 'we', 'our', 'ours', 'ourselves', 'you', 'your', 'yours',
 'yourself', 'yourselves', 'he', 'him', 'his', 'himself', 'she', 'her', 'hers',
 'herself', 'it', 'its', 'itself', 'they', 'them', 'their', 'theirs', 'themselves',
 'what', 'which', 'who', 'whom', 'this', 'that', 'these', 'those', 'am', 'is', 'are',
 'was', 'were', 'be', 'been', 'being', 'have', 'has', 'had', 'having', 'do', 'does',
 'did', 'doing', 'a', 'an', 'the', 'and', 'but', 'if', 'or', 'because', 'as', 'until',
 'while', 'of', 'at', 'by', 'for', 'with', 'about', 'against', 'between', 'into',
 'through', 'during', 'before', 'after', 'above', 'below', 'to', 'from', 'up', 'down',
 'in', 'out', 'on', 'off', 'over', 'under', 'again', 'further', 'then', 'once', 'here',
 'there', 'when', 'where', 'why', 'how', 'all', 'any', 'both', 'each', 'few', 'more',
 'most', 'other', 'some', 'such', 'no', 'nor', 'not', 'only', 'own', 'same', 'so',
 'than', 'too', 'very', 's', 't', 'can', 'will', 'just', 'don', 'should', 'now', 've', 'll', 'amp']

full_text = open(filepath_of_text, encoding="utf-8").read()

all_the_words = split_into_words(full_text)
meaningful_words = [word for word in all_the_words if word not in stopwords]
meaningful_words_tally = Counter(meaningful_words)
most_frequent_meaningful_words = meaningful_words_tally.most_common(number_of_desired_words)

[('love', 93),
 ('like', 50),
 ('ain', 50),
 ('slay', 49),
 ('sorry', 44),
 ('okay', 42),
 ('oh', 38),
 ('m', 37),
 ('get', 32),
 ('daddy', 28),
 ('let', 28),
 ('back', 24),
 ('said', 22),
 ('work', 21),
 ('cause', 21),
 ('ft', 21),
 ('hold', 20),
 ('night', 19),
 ('feel', 19),
 ('hurt', 19),
 ('best', 19),
 ('winner', 19),
 ('every', 18),
 ('bout', 18),
 ('money', 17),
 ('baby', 16),
 ('boy', 16),
 ('long', 16),
 ('shoot', 16),
 ('good', 16),
 ('catch', 16),
 ('know', 15),
 ('ooh', 15),
 ('got', 14),
 ('come', 14),
 ('pray', 14),
 ('way', 13),
 ('gon', 13),
 ('kiss', 13),
 ('re', 12)]

Your Turn

Ok now it’s your turn to change some variables and calculate a new word frequency! First, pick a new text file from the list below:

  • "../texts/music/Carly-Rae-Jepsen-Emotion.txt"

  • "../texts/music/Mitski-Puberty-2.txt"

  • "../texts/literature/Dracula_Bram-Stoker.txt"

  • "../texts/literature/Little-Women_Louisa-May-Alcott.txt"

  • "../texts/literature/Alice-in-Wonderland_Lewis-Carroll.txt"

!ls ../texts/music/

Then assign filepath_of_text to the corresponding filepath below. Be sure to explore what happens when you change the values for number_of_desired_words and stopwords, as well.

import re
from collections import Counter

def split_into_words(any_chunk_of_text):
    lowercase_text = any_chunk_of_text.lower()
    split_words = re.split("\W+", lowercase_text)
    return split_words

filepath_of_text = #Insert a New Text File Here
number_of_desired_words = #Change number of desired words

#Explore how the stopwords below affect word frequency by adding or removing stopwords
stopwords = ['i', 'me', 'my', 'myself', 'we', 'our', 'ours', 'ourselves', 'you', 'your', 'yours',
 'yourself', 'yourselves', 'he', 'him', 'his', 'himself', 'she', 'her', 'hers',
 'herself', 'it', 'its', 'itself', 'they', 'them', 'their', 'theirs', 'themselves',
 'what', 'which', 'who', 'whom', 'this', 'that', 'these', 'those', 'am', 'is', 'are',
 'was', 'were', 'be', 'been', 'being', 'have', 'has', 'had', 'having', 'do', 'does',
 'did', 'doing', 'a', 'an', 'the', 'and', 'but', 'if', 'or', 'because', 'as', 'until',
 'while', 'of', 'at', 'by', 'for', 'with', 'about', 'against', 'between', 'into',
 'through', 'during', 'before', 'after', 'above', 'below', 'to', 'from', 'up', 'down',
 'in', 'out', 'on', 'off', 'over', 'under', 'again', 'further', 'then', 'once', 'here',
 'there', 'when', 'where', 'why', 'how', 'all', 'any', 'both', 'each', 'few', 'more',
 'most', 'other', 'some', 'such', 'no', 'nor', 'not', 'only', 'own', 'same', 'so',
 'than', 'too', 'very', 's', 't', 'can', 'will', 'just', 'don', 'should', 'now', 've', 'll', 'amp']

full_text = open(filepath_of_text, encoding="utf-8").read()

all_the_words = split_into_words(full_text)
meaningful_words = [word for word in all_the_words if word not in stopwords]
meaningful_words_tally = Counter(meaningful_words)
most_frequent_meaningful_words = meaningful_words_tally.most_common(number_of_desired_words)