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Literature is a social reflection. Any fictional plot is a hidden reality, a re-enactment of history. The nineteenth century was a cruel century for a woman, and much more so for a female writer. The woman was poorer than man, and their positions in culture and family were distinct and distinct. The man was the embodiment of intellect and strength, while the woman was the embodiment of a domestic creature of boring responsibilities. Female authors were uncommon, unpopular, and unread. That is something we bear in mind as we analyze The Yellow Wallpaper. A plot of the story revolves around a woman repressed by a patriarchal society, represented by her husband and the family doctors, going slowly mad in her confinement.
The narrative techniques and stylistic devices are used very smartly and are extremely important in discovering the implicit ideas and symbols in the story. In The The Yellow Wallpaper litotes diminishes the role of women in society. A name of a narrator is not even mentioned. She always asks her husband John for permission – women do not have power and freedom of choice. She is locked in the room how society locks women. John is not only her husband, but also her physician, and her disorder is caused by a relationship with her husband and is aggravated after his treatment. He does not even believe in her illness, that she has any disorders. Anyway, he still restricts her freedom, locks her in the house, and controls all her actions from eating to sleeping, as if she were ill, even if he does not really believe it. This represents the typical marriage, a marriage that rather makes sick than brings happiness. Room – is a symbol of a marriage, and yellow wallpapers – of her suffering. At the end of the story she merges into this wallpaper, there is no other woman, there is only she and her suffering. Nevertheless, it represents all the women, trapped behind a symbolic wallpaper.
Alliteration is another important stylistic device that helps to create a particular mood and convey the important idea. In the word combination haunted house – sound “h”makes a soft soothing effect. I cannot keep count – creates an unpleasant cacophony. And dreadfully depressing – shares her mood with us (Gilman 54).
Colour of wallpaper is very symbolic and at the same time ironic. In many cultures yellow represents sunshine, happiness, and warmth. Obviously, she is not happy. If yellow is overused, it can have a disturbing effect. For example, too much yellow causes loss of focus and makes it hard to complete a task. Too much yellow also can cause people to become critical and demanding. Moreover, it is a proven fact that babies cry more in rooms painted yellow. The narrator acts like a child, she gets really obsessed and loses her focus and common sense, begins to imagine things that do not exist. And her husband also treats her like a child, controls her actions and puts her in a room that was originally a play room (Baym 23).
The short story has a lot of gothic elements and clear allusions to Edgar Allan Poe´s stories, among them The Pit and The Pendulum. The protagonist is alone in a closed room where all you can do is to think, and it makes so depressing and obsessive that you lose sense of time and reality. And finally, you are overcome by thoughts of madness. Mental deterioration and paranoia take us back to Poe´s Tell-Tale Heart where a man was obsessed with evil eye while our protagonist with yellow wallpaper (Oakley 30).
Outside world is bright, and represents freedom from marriage. A room has a symbolic meaning – a marriage itself. That is why, the outside world is described so vivid, while the room so creepy:
Out of one window 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. The outside pattern is a florid arabesque.
And this is her attitude towards the house: “The furniture in this room is no worse than inharmonious” (Gilman 4).Negative adjectives immerse us into a trance state and share the same dark gloomy mood, we begin to feel depressed, apathetic. Usage of imageries makes an avalanche effect, house is described creepy, and with every word we share woman´s feeling and begin to loathe this room:
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 (Gilman 84).
The author uses a technique of a constant repetition in order to show her obsession with details:
At night in any kind of light, in twilight, candle light, lamplight, and worst of all by moonlight, it becomes bars!” “The color is hideous enough, and unreliable enough, and infuriating enough, but the pattern is torturing (Gilman 44).
Such an obsession is a repercussion of so called rest cure, where a patient is advised to stay in bed. Of course, this treatment cannot help, it is opposite to one that should be implemented, it brings horror. But what is she really suffering from?
This is how Charlotte Perkins Gilman herself defines the aim of her short story in Why I Wrote the Yellow Wall-Paper,:
For many years I suffered from a severe and continuous nervous breakdown tending to melancholia-and beyond. During about the third year of this trouble I went, in devout faith and some faint stir of hope, to a noted specialist in nervous diseases, the best known in the country. This wise man put me to bed and applied the rest cure, to which a still good physique responded so promptly that he concluded that there was nothing much the matter with me, and sent me home with solemn advice to 'live as domestic a life as possible,' to 'have but two hours' intelligent life a day,' and 'never to touch pen, brush or pencil again as long as I lived.' This was in 1887… (Gilman 3).
So we can observe, that a story , to some extent, is also autobiographical, and make a conclusion that if the protagonist were an alive human – being, she would probably suffer postpartum depression (“ The Yellow Wallpaper”).
The Yellow Wallpaper is a sophisticated short story written in a form of a journal with a lot of leitmotives, symbols, allusions, interesting plot and, of course, strong moral. Context, personal experience of the author and cultural subtleties helped us to shed the light on problems not only in a story, but in XIX th century society in general.
The pit and the pendulum by Edgar Allan Poe is a frightening story about torture and the Spanish Inquisition. While imprisoned, the narrator suffers a series of terrifying horrors, such as being strapped to a blade-like pendulum. After surviving the terrifying torture, the narrator is freed and goes into the world, where he meets a variety of strange characters and encounters macabre horrors.
The narrator remembers the descent into the dream world, as he is carried away by silent figures. The atmosphere is ominous, as he is surrounded by darkness and no light. The narrator knows that mercy is lost. He almost gives in to his fate, but eventually comes up with a plan to escape. He awakens when he hears the sound of trumpets. General Lassalle enters from the French army and defeats the Inquisition.
The narrator describes the agony of waiting as the pendulum slowly descends. He faints from the pain, and wakes up paranoid of being watched. He has become extremely hungry, and reaches for the meat he can find by a wood board. Then, a fleeting thought of joy appears in his mind. He tries to catch it before it disappears from his consciousness.
"The Pit and the Pendulum" by Edgar Allan Poe is one of the most popular Gothic Literature works. It focuses on the emotions and feelings of a man who is condemned to death. It's an extraordinary story that explores the psychological and physical effects of death. This piece exemplifies the power of horror and the darkness that surrounds us. The pit and the pendulum is an example of how the writer can use this method to create an unforgettable horror story.
“The Yellow Wallpaper.” SparkNotes, 09 May 2017, http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/yellowwallpaper/
Baym, Nina. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. London: Pearson, 2012
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. "Why I Wrote the Yellow Wall-Paper. New York: Routledge, 1913
Oakley, Ann. “Beyond The Yellow Wallpaper.” Reproductive Health Matters, 5.10 (1997): 29-39. Print
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