Madness In The Yellow Wallpaper

1961 Words 8 Pages
Madness Overwhelms Our Narrator Madness (n) – The state of being mentally ill, especially severely. Edgar Allen Poe is notorious for creating characters who rapidly descend into this state, if they were not suffering already. Charlotte Perkins Gilman writes about personal experience, allowing her own mentality to shape the narrator in The Yellow Wallpaper. It is impressive, to say the least. How do these two authors describe this intense mindset, without letting their characters become silly or lacking verisimilitude? How do they bring about the unsuspected and chilling narratives that keep readers engaged? Moreover, how do they manage to make madness appear almost normal? The slow escalation of psychosis makes the narrator in The Yellow …show more content…
She is on, what was in the late 19th century known as, a Rest Cure. Where she is not allowed to write, read, feed herself or socialize with anyone other than her husband. The narrator describes her daily routine, how many prescriptions she is on and her location. The most important being the room in which she is locked. This is where the majority of the story takes place, but the reader can tell there is something strange about this room. “It was a nursery first and then playroom and gymnasium, I should judge; for the windows are barred for little children, and there are rings and things in the walls” (Gilman 194) she tells the reader. But it is easy to see that this room was not made for children. Why would a child’s room need bars on the window? Why would there be rings and “things” in the walls? The mental picture Perkins Gilman gives in this passage gives more the sense of a comfortable cell. The wording Perkins Gilman uses to then describe the wallpaper is also disturbing, “sprawling flamboyant patterns…uncertain curves…they suddenly commit suicide-plunge off at outrageous angles” (Gilman 194). The narrator slowly descends into a depression, being left for so long in isolation. The wallpaper becomes her only form of entertainment and it begins to …show more content…
In the 19th century, many of the mental instabilities we recognize today did not exist in the medical field. While it is clear that the authors would not have known that these instabilities would become legitimate, that would have been impossible. But the perception is a possibility, as both authors have personal ties to their narrators. Perkins Gilman suffered from a similar depressive state as described in The Yellow Wallpaper and Poe is often considered an extreme paranoid personality, because of his alcohol and drug abuses. I would say that these similarities lend themselves useful to the authors in the perpetuation of the narrators’ mental instabilities. As I said in the beginning, some authors have no experience with mental illness and therefor are unable to accurately describe the escalating process without seeming overly exaggerated or unrealistic. This gives Poe and Gilman the upper hand. They are able to give their characters and stories the verisimilitude that readers desire. Madness in both stories is a thematic element, in which the narrator is put in a circumstance that accelerates the psychotic until the character is forced to act upon their nervous tendencies. For Poe’s character, it is the murder and then confessing to the police, for Perkins Gilman’s this is the eventual suicide. In both, the character is taken from one extreme to the other. From calm,

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