The Oppressing Face Of Madness In The Mirror Of So Essay

This essay has a total of 2172 words and 8 pages.

The Oppressing Face Of Madness In The Mirror Of Society


The Oppressing Face of Madness in the Mirror of Society
For centuries women in life and literature were often portrayed as submissive, docile, and
obedient to men. Focusing primarily on the nineteenth century, literature of the period
often characterized women as victims oppressed by society, culture, as well as by the male
influences in their lives. Many of the female characters suffered the effects of isolation
brought on by constant oppression and subservience driving them insane and mad. The views
of women in early literature were often silenced and their opinion's disregarded by a
dominant patriarchal society. One could argue that the men's influence on society forged
the distinctions between sanity and madness. This obsessive position to shape reality
proved to be unhealthy and destructive but it was rarely acknowledged among the company of
men. A Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616) once quoted, "Too much sanity may be
madness, and maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be!"
(http://www.quoteworld.org.) Madness even though taboo and troublesome, seemed common in
many female literary protagonists of the period. Thus far in the course we encountered the
role of madness in such literary works as "The Story of an Hour," and "The Yellow
Wallpaper." The role of madness and oppression in the works can be better examined in
three aspects of: the causes of the induced madness, how each female character deals with
the insanity, and how the similarities in madness link the texts to common social issues.
The conclusion will show the significant roles madness and oppression played in the
selected fictional stories echoing the real life torment women lived in. Speaking in an
aesthetic tone, one will see that though the Yellow Wallpaper and The Story of an Hour are
similar, however, tale by Gilman proves to be a better argument for portraying the role of
maddens and oppression as a mirror of society of the time period.

Few works in fictional literature embody the portrayal and effects of madness better than
Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper." Readers are presented with the tale of
a woman suffering from a mental illness whose problems are compounded by the imprisonment
she must endure. Set in a similar time period as the already discussed works, many of the
same isolation and autonomy issues reside behind the conflict of Gilman's narrative. The
story presents the madness associated with the oppression of women during the era coupled
with the unforgiving patriarchal view of society. John and his wife, the protagonist,
venture of for an extended vaccion to a large house in the country. John is a respected
physician who has prescribed rest for his wife who needs to recover from her ailment of a
nervous condition and temporary depression. The woman's initial bout with boredom quickly
deteriorates to begin her acclimation to madness. She is confined to the bed and the house
isolated from the outside world and society. Her stifled emotions and impulses are a
result from John's strict position on what he deems as treatment. The physical confinement
and constraints placed on our character by John force her to become preoccupied with her
surroundings such as the room, window, and curious wallpaper. If the saying "idle hands
make for idle minds" holds true, then our narrator has found herself in a perfect
environment for madness to take over. John has restricted from writing in her dairy to
insure she is getting complete rest. "There comes John, and I must put this away- he hates
to have me write a word." (Gilman. p. 240) Now all she has is her thoughts and a room with
a view to help keep her sane from herself and oppressing husband.

Initially there was a mere fascination with the wallpaper. It possessed odd patterns
within patterns but wore a putrid yellow color. To deal with the setting madness, our
character begins to try to discover what is behind the patterns in the wallpaper. After
days and hours on end she discovers in her mind's eye that she thinks she sees a woman
trapped behind the labyrinth. "I didn't realize for a long time what the thing was that
showed behind that dim sub-pattern, but now I quite sure it is a woman." (Gilman. p.245)
The narrator is preoccupied by her temporary insanity but still holds on to the real world
by occasionally interjected thoughts of her condition. She says several times that she
wished she could be better faster but that it is the isolation and the restrictions of her
husband that keep her down. With the obvious lack of companionship, she finds a new friend
in the woman and vows to free her from the wallpaper. She later mentions that she often
sees the woman creeping outside. She begins to hallucinate revealing the madness that is
controlling her and her faculties. She also begins to show signs of paranoia by locking
the door as she watches the woman creeping and while she tears away at the paper so John
will not discover it. She no longer goes outside but rather work at freeing the woman nor
does she allow anyone to come in to her lair of madness so she can surprise her husband.
The poor woman dismisses her thoughts based on the conception that such actions are simply
improper revealing the undercurrents of behavior of women in society even if they are not
really in it. The woman remarking about her disgust with even looking out the windows any
more mirrors this concept. "I don't like to look out the windows even- there are so many
of those creeping women, and they creep so fast." (Gilman. p.249) This reveals the madness
brought on by society to women, to be accepted or to practice freewill they must creep to
get around. Often people behave differently when they now society is observing them and
usually act accordingly to avoid any ridicule or judgment. The narrator creeps by daylight
behind locked doors allowing the madness to rule her every action without society seeing
her condition. The character is faced with freeing the woman from the paper before her
husband arrives back to the house to make their departing arrangements. This drives her
insane now that she has a deadline to meet if she is to free her imaginary friend. She
becomes consumed with madness keeping only to her task before she will allow anyone to see
her great deed. In the story's climax John's worst fears are realized as he discovers that
his sickly wife has truly gone mad. He comes to her and asks to be let in but she refuses
because she is almost but not quite done with her work. "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!" (Gilman. p.249)

Now unknown by the victim, her madness was fully recognized by the world but in her world
she was no free. The madness had served once again as a toll for a means of escape from a
world in which an oppressed female protagonist could not cope with.
Continues for 4 more pages >>




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