Short story written interpretation

Marcus Cheung

Mrs. Brayko

AP Lit

November 7, 2019

Draft #3

The Yellow Wallpaper Analysis

 

The short story, The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, has held acclaim and been regarded as an important piece of feminist literature. It is no challenge to see why this is the case. In this piece, Gilman masterfully utilizes and develops the titular yellow wallpaper throughout the narrative as a symbol to explore the theme of the oppressiveness of marriage and societal standards for women.

In the narrative, the narrator begins to see things within the wallpaper. In particular, a ‘woman stooping down and creeping about behind that pattern’. The pattern of the wallpaper is described as jailing the woman. ‘It becomes bars! The outside pattern I mean, and the woman behind it is as plain as can be’. In context, the patterned nature of the wallpaper takes on new meaning. This story was published in 1892, a period of time where women were generally considered inferior to men, both physically and mentally (“Roles”’). Gilman herself experienced an unhappy marriage which later came to inspire this very short story (Biography). Perhaps the woman (and by extension the narrator and author) is not only trapped by the physical pattern of the paper, but also by the societal pattern of 19th century women where, subject to Victorian standards, the female role was largely limited to domestic care and highly restricted at all wealth levels. This can be inferred as later in the narrative, the narrator, in her maddened state, begins to believe that she herself is the woman trapped behind the paper. She questions ‘I wonder if they all come out of that wallpaper as I did?, and remarks that she will have ‘to get back behind the pattern’. In this moment, Gilman conveys to the reader the conceptual parallels between the narrator and the woman. Additionally, the narrator gives a vivid description of the wallpaper as ‘repellant, almost revolting’ and her attitude toward the room as ‘I should hate it myself if I had to live in this room long’. Not only is this describing her aversion to the actual wallpaper, but is, by extension, reflecting the narrator’s and author’s negative sentiment towards the conventional role of women of this time period.

Gilman continues to develop this symbol throughout the narrative. As the story progresses and the narrator’s hysteria deepens, she sees increasingly horrid details on the wallpaper, ‘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!’ This grotesque imagery underscores the truly oppressive the institution of marriage of her time was. Specific diction like ‘strangles’ depict its suffocating nature. The deliberate plural use of the ‘heads’ and ‘they’ extends this issue to all women, that it is not only the narrator facing this difficulty.

At the end of the story, Gilman has the narrator tear down the yellow wallpaper to the horror of John, her husband. He exclaims, ‘For God’s sake, what are you doing!’. On the other hand, Jennie, who happens to be a woman, is not shocked, but rather she ‘looked at the wall in amazement’. This final symbolic act represents the narrator’s attempt to break free of the confines of her situation. She becomes free from the wallpaper and societal constriction to the horror of John, and the awe of Jennie. After John collapses at the sight of the narrator in the room crawling about, the narrator has to ‘creep over him every time!’ she passes. This can be interpreted as her triumph over him, and macroscopically, a triumph of women over men and societal standards as a whole. In her last lines of dialogue, the narrator declares her freedom victoriously, “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!” One way or another, the narrator has symbolically freed herself of the shackles her life as a married woman has placed on her despite the opposition of those around her.

Finally, it is only through Gilman’s use of first person perspective and journal style writing that the otherwise mundane yellow wallpaper was able to take on much greater meaning. Firstly, using this point of view, the reader gains a much more personal understanding of the narrator’s descent into madness. Not only does this cultivate sympathy from the reader, but also later becomes invaluable as the reader is able to infer that statements such as ‘that dim sub-pattern,—but now I am quite sure it is a woman’, are simply the delusions of the narrator. With this understanding, the idea that the woman in the wall is a reflection of the narrator gains more viability since that woman was born from the narrators imaginations and is ultimately a derivation of her marriage.

In conclusion, Gilmans development of the yellow wallpaper as a symbol and the narrator’s interactions with it speaks volumes on the role of women of her time. With the historical context and through the lens of this hysterical women, Gilman was able to transform this potentially dull story about a failed mental recovery into a timeless piece of chilling social commentary.

Works Cited

Biography.com Editors. “Charlotte Perkins Gilman Biography.” The Biography.com Website, A&E Networks Television, 12 Apr. 2019, www.biography.com/writer/charlotte-perkins-gilman.

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” The New England Magazine. 1892. [PDF Document]. Retrieved from HKIS Schoology site: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1952/1952-h/1952-h.htm

“Roles of Women in the Victorian Era.” The Victorian Era England Facts about Queen Victoria, Society & Literature, victorian-era.org/roles-of-women-in-the-victorian-era.html.

Q1 Revision

Two poems “A Barred Owl” and “The History Teacher”, written by Richard Wilbur and Billy Collins respectively, both speak on the power of words and twisting the truth, both of who offer differing stances. Wilbur points to the positives of concealing the truth. On the other hand, Collin’s poem proposes the harm that concealing the truth may cause. Throughout each poem, the respective authors utilise differing literary devices that make their message all the more compelling.

 

Wilbur’s poetic structure is two stanzas of six lines each. In partitioning his poem in this way, he separates two differing parts of his narrative. The first stanza involves the parents explanation, and more importantly, the concealing of the truth aspect. We understand this is true based off common knowledge. The “Who cooks for you?” explanation is simply not true. The second stanza now introduces the true nature of the owl, and to that extent, the reason concealing the truth might be beneficial. This concept is explicitly introduced in the first two lines of the second stanza. “Words, which can make our terros bravely clear, Can also thus domesticate a fear.” Ultimately, by splitting these two stanzas, Wilbur establishes not only a conceptual difference, but also build suspense even with this separation.

 

While Collins’ message is vastly different from Wilbur, he too intentionally chooses his structure to make his poem get his message across successfully. Collin’s stanzas have a repeated structure of the historic event and then the teacher’s explanation. For example, “And the Stone Age became the Gravel Age,/ named after the long driveways of the time”. This use of enjambment serves to build suspense and add comedic timing. The first part is the set up and the second the punchline. In doing this, Collins demonstrates the ridiculousness of the teacher’s actions thus furthering his warning of overly concealing the truth.

 

Throughout “A Barred Owl”, Wilbur uses an AA BB rhyme scheme, as well as specific diction, to make the narrative and his message more compelling. For example, the last two lines rhyme on the words “claw” and “raw”. Given the goal of the second stanza was to point out how concealing the truth protects the child, the rhyme serves to emphasize this carefully chosen grotesque diction. These devices working in conjunction build a frightening image of the owl, something to rightfully protect the child from. This device also serves another purpose. The simple rhyme scheme is reminiscent of a children’s book, something used to calm down a child. This may cause the readers to subconsciously gain a deeper understanding of the poem’s message.

 

On the other hand, Collins’ poem follows no rhyme scheme and is instead free verse. This sets the tone of the poem to be much more lighthearted in contrast to Wilbur’s poem and leads the reader to take the teacher less seriously and, by extension, the idea of concealing the truth.

 

Wilbur’s poetic structure, rhyme scheme, and carefully chosen diction, all amalgamate into this short yet effective poem underlying the importance of concealing the truth from children. Conversely, Collin’s lack of structure and rhyme scheme aims to convey the harm in veiling the truth. Though these two poems vary greatly in their style, each is effective in conveying their opposing messages.

U1 Original Poem A or B

Ode to Toilet Paper

I sit there on that ivory throne
and Nature’s call compels me.
I stare intently at my phone
And out comes rectal debris.

Time marches on the deed is done
I now must cleanse my rear end.
This five-ply sheet, second to none
Its softness is a godsend.

What could I do without this thing
it helps my basic hygiene.
This Charmin brand fit for a king
I’ll stock in every latrine.

U1 AP Q3 in-class writing (FRQ)

In the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, the character Victor Frankenstein undergoes a series of events that all stem from his one act on his desire for power. Victor does not have the typical power struggle of dominance over others. Rather, his is of a more philosophical standing. The defining event within the novel that is the culmination of this struggle is Victor’s creation of his monster. In this Victor creates life out of death (literal corpses). Victor struggles with the laws of nature and thirsts for scientific power as he seeks to rocket past acceptable human limits. This ultimately leads him on a path of demise for himself and his closest relations.

The defining event within this story is the creation of the monster. Unfortunately for Victor, the monster kills Victor’s brother William, his friend Henry, and finally Elizabeth, his bride-to-be, in revenge. It is depicted extensively throughout the novel that Victor’s desire to transcend and perform this God like act is only met with tragedy.

Shelley uses this theme of seeking power being met with loss as the driving force throughout the novel. Even before the creation of the monster, the novel already hinted at this theme. In the events prior, Victor undergoes extensive study and research. Part of this involved extracting himself from society and isolating himself into a laboratory. In doing this, Victor slowly sacrificed “human” like qualities for the sake of power. Little by little he gave gave up meaningful relationships and his tunnel vision blinded him from the ethical dilemma the creation of life posed.

Later in the narrative, Shelley develops Victor’s character with Victor having a great shift in mindset. He quickly begins regretting his creation when numerous tragedies begin to unfold. Moreover, he realizes the error of his power hungry ways and seeks to reverse his actions. This shift in mindset becomes apparent when after the monster asks Victor to create a companion for him. Despite knowing the consequences and destruction that would stem from the monster’s wrath, Victor refuses. Furthermore, Victor attempts to undo his creation by slaying the monster, although his pursuit eventually fails. This is a far cry from his previous sense of accomplishment and victory at the eve of the monster’s creation.

Mary Shelly uses this power struggle not only to further the plot, but also to display the consequences of obtaining and misusing power. Victor, after creating his monster, does not take responsibility for his actions and instead shuns his creation. Having been forsaken, the creature takes revenge on Victor by killing his loved ones. Although this sort of event is unlikely to happen in the real world, there exists a conceptual parallel. Specifically, being irresponsible with your power will ultimately have negative consequences. For example, a politician who takes corporate bribes abuses his political power and will be arrested for corruption.

In Frankenstein, Shelly builds the narrative around the implications of Victor’s struggle for power over nature and in doing so creates compelling character development, drives the narrative, and elicits thoughts from the reader on this underlying theme.

U1: In-Class Writing Essential Question

How do poets and poetry invite us to see, feel, and experience the world?

Poetry serves as a medium to experience the world in a variety of ways. Poets will use the speaker to allow readers to experience the world through a different lens. This may range from the author’s perspective, another person, an animal, an inanimate object, etc, the list goes on. Authors can make this all the more compelling through the use of different devices. For example, certain rhyme schemes may be used to emphasize certain words to set a mood, or enjambment could be used to build suspense within a line.

While at first, I thought poetry was mostly both random and inefficient, in contrast to prose, poetry offers the ability to elicit emotion and thought from the reader. Not every reader will have the same interpretation of a piece, this ultimately allows us to build and shape our own perspectives rather than have it be spelled out.