11.3.15

The Yellow Wallpaper: Tradition and The Other


The idea of 40 days of rest for new mothers is not uncommon. In fact, it has been in practice for centuries and though more commonly seen polygamist cultures today, western society has also taken part.  Within this tradition lies the midwife whom serves as a mother to the mother and the baby’s father whom acts extra cautious of his wife during post-partum. John’s sister whom I assume is the character named (her name was never mentioned outright), Jennie, and Mary, the nursing maid, play the role of midwives.

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


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. (Gilman)

These excerpts elucidate the fact that the people in the mother’s life are just doing as they are expected to do in a traditional society. John takes care of all details concerning his wife and allows her mind and body some ease as is usually recommended. He is trying to act in her best interest as best as he knows how.  The wife’s episode is not directly the fault of John or her caretakers. She is the only one whom refused to conform to her role in society. Her beliefs do not parallel the environment and culture she becomes adopted into.

This is the problem. She attempts to break free from a culture and life that she does not want, so she abandons her identity. More superstitious cultures would even believe that her mind and will weakening depression caused a literal spirit to consume her body. "I've got out at last in spite of you and Jane. And I've pulled off most of the paper, so you can't put me back!”  is what the body of the wife says at the end of the story. Gilman never directly says that this story is not a horror, so it could be that this statement is from the former occupant of that attic room. No foreknowledge is given on “Jane” and “you” could be anyone, so these references could have been different from the current occupants of the house. One thing holds true whether taking a supernatural perspective or not on the story, the wife cracked and her innards spilled out leaving only a shell of her former self.

The horror of completely losing your body and self serves as a precautionary tale for all those living in an environment in which they disagree with the traditions and practices and for those whom lead them into that environment. It tells people to not put themselves in a situation they cannot be comfortable in and that nothing good comes from relationships where one party cannot be themselves. The wife straightly states “I must not let her find me writing.” She is hiding the very essence of herself because she knows it won’t be accepted. The more she hides herself away the more detached she becomes. Her avant-garde, feminist ideology just cannot fit into her married environment and John suffers from this. While The Yellow Wallpaper educates on the faults in handling post-partum and/or depressed women in premodern times, it also reminds why it is detrimental to stay true to yourself; and that is a lesson that applies to every era.

Works Cited

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “The Yellow Wallpaper”, 25 November 2008. Project Gutenberg. Web. 11 March 2015.

8.3.15

Heart of Darkness- Indulgence of the Unknown

          Heart of Darkness is a very obvious example of a Gothic novel. It challenges the inner workings of the human mind and elaborates on horror.  Marlow and other characters constantly address spirits, ghosts, and demons which are known in Gothics and fear is a common theme. Marlow sees many frightful visions and shapes that parallel the fright in his heart for the fate of morals and deconstruction of his own self.

And the memory of what I had heard him say afar there, with the horned shapes stirring at my back, in the glow of fires, within the patient woods, those broken phrases came back to me, were heard again in their ominous and terrifying simplicity. (Heart 151)
A recognition of the horror within the self is present in these lines. The horned shapes stirring at his back are the demons and evils that lurk around and within him. The theme of darkness fuels the theme of fear and in turn a theme of utter lost-ness. Marlow's direction in this novel become more and more muddled as he loses track of what the moral path should look like and becomes more vulnerable to the thoughts of evil. In fact as the novel goes on he starts to become more characteristic a Gothic hero, becoming more flawed even to the point of telling complete fables. A certain fascination begins to exist for the objects and souls that appear flawed and different as this development within himself grows.

These moribund shapes were free as air--and nearly as thin. I began to distinguish the gleam of the eyes under the trees. Then, glancing down, I saw a face near my hand. (Heart 81-82)
The idea of accepting the unknown into one's life and dealing with strange and foreign events that challenge the morality is a token of the Gothic. Marlow's acceptance and reformation of codes for living is similar to Catherine Earnshaw's acceptance and struggles with Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. It is very difficult when facing the unknown (as Heathcliff's existence to Catherine was), to understand the difference between right and wrong and which direction should be undertook after no chance for you to live completely "normal" exists. Marlow indulges in this trial, this horror.
 
It had become so pitch dark that we listeners could hardly see one another. For a long time already he, sitting apart, had been no more to us than a voice. There was not a word from anybody. The others might have been asleep, but I was awake. I listened, I listened on the watch for the sentence, for the word, that would give me the clue to the faint uneasiness inspired by this narrative that seemed to shape itself without human lips in the heavy night-air of the river. (Heart 95)
Even in this excerpt Marlow faces a horror in the darkness that becomes personified, carrying a shape without lips. This narrative appears only to Marlow it seduces him into the darkness speaking intimately, only to him, so as to draw him deeper into the mysteries of the heart. As Conrad continues to bring significance into the dark, the unknown, that which causes fright, so as to highlight how it can apply to the soul of a human, his novel falls under the category of a Gothic.
 

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. NY, NY: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1988.

Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness is a very obvious example of a Gothic novel. It challenges the inner workings of the human mind and elaborates on horror.  Marlow and other characters constantly address spirits, ghosts, and demons which are known in Gothics and fear is a common theme. Marlow sees many frightful visions and shapes that parallel the fright in his heart for the fate of morals and deconstruction of his own self like so.
And the memory of what I had heard him say afar there, with the horned shapes stirring at my back, in the glow of fires, within the patient woods, those broken phrases came back to me, were heard again in their ominous and terrifying simplicity. (Heart 151)

These moribund shapes were free as air--and nearly as thin. I began to distinguish the gleamof the eyes under the trees. Then, glancing down, I saw a face nearmy hand. (Heart 81-82)

It had become so pitch dark that we listeners could hardly see one another. For a long time already he, sitting apart, had been no more to us than a voice. There was not a word from anybody. The others might have been asleep, but I was awake. I listened, I listened on the watch for the sentence, for the word, that would give me the clue to the faint uneasiness inspired by this narrative that seemed to shape itself without human lips in the heavy night-air of the river. (Heart 95)