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The Language and Syntax of The Yellow Wallpaper

From the minute you read the read the first paragraph until you finish the last sentence, Charlotte Gilman captures her reader s attention as her character documents her own journey into insanity in The Yellow Wallpaper. As her character passes a seemingly indefinite amount of time, it becomes clear that her husband s treatment is affecting her. Gilman is able convey the narrator s changing mental state through language and syntax. Gilman manipulates the reader s perspective throughout her story as she immediately introduces us to her world.

Language plays an important role as a normal woman assesses her husband s profession and her own supposed illness. The narrator comes across intelligent if not a little paranoid-less concerned with a slighthysterical tendency but rather a queer untenanted (Gilman 691) house. Her suspicion occurs early on; appearing at first as misdirection meant to foreshadow a possible ghost story. She goes on to describe the most beautiful place with a delicious garden (Gilman 692). Her depiction is that of a quaint home-leading thereader to imagine a stable woman in a new setting.

Clearly the narrator s broad vocabulary is an indication of her right-mindedness as well as her ability to examine a condition she disagrees with. A description of the wall is necessary in order to provide a base for comparison with the rest of the story. Because we only get the narrator s point of view, descriptions of the wall become more important as a way of judging her deteriorating mental state. When first mentioned, she sees the wall as a sprawling, flamboyant pattern committing every artistic sin, (Gilman 693) once again emphasizing her present intellectual capacity.

Additionally, the wall s color contrasts a dull, yet lurid orange with a sickly sulfur tint showing different appearances depending on where the narrator looks at the wall. While the description is far from flattering, it conveys the dual nature of the wall as an evil yet compelling force by using contrasting words to describe the wall. More focus, though, is on the overall awkwardness of the wallpaper. Its lame, uncertain curves, symbolic of the narrator s supposed condition, suggest a point at which they suddenly commit suicide -quite possibly foreshadowing events of thenear future.

These curves destroy themselves in unheard-of contradictions. Each image becomes indicative of a more sinister tone. The narrator is immediately aware of an evil contained within the wallpaper. Focus remains on the wallpaper throughout the story. As the narrator explores its nature, she uncovers new aspects of the wallpaper providing further proof of her surfacing mental condition. The smell is introduced as an extension of the physical wallpaper giving it a human quality, which in itself is capable of such actions as skulking in the parlor, hiding in the hall, [and] lying in wait for me . Gilman 700) No longer is the wallpaper simply confined to the bedroom, it is now able to extend its reach throughout the house.

The narrator shows signs of increasing alienation-unable to feel comfortable in the whole house much less her bedroom. The narrator s paranoia is portrayed through her internal conversations. The reader is given insight as to what she sees, however distorted it appears, and it is through this that we become aware of her developing state. The reader is clued in to her many observations about her company and the wallpaper. I have watched John and Jennie too she exclaims in a distraught fashion.

It is as if she wants us to believe, for at least a brief second, that her mental state is either shared or nonexistent-simply a product of the paper. Instantly, this attitude changes, though as a new journal entry is evidence of the ranting of a crazy woman, afraid that John might want to take me away. It is now absolutely obvious that she has made a connection with the wallpaper, which provides her with something more to expect, to look forward to as if she is dependent on it. Studying the syntax Gilman uses reveals her characters state of thought.

As she speaks to her journal in the beginning, her speech is controlled, fluid. Paragraphs 6 and 7 create a basis for her thoughts of her husband and his treatment. She is able to calmly describe her feelings about her situation just as any other person would. The reader first has little suspicion of the author s intent. Sentence length adds to its fluidity and provides proof of her ability to convey complex thoughts. In contrast, syntax provides a new perspective to the narrator s behavior as sentence structure draws attention to her erratic behavior. By her last entry, the narrator s sentences have become short and simple.

Paragraphs 227 through 238 contain few adjectives resulting in limited descriptions yet her short sentences emphasize her actions providing plenty of imagery. The syntax quickly pulls the reader through the end as the narrator reaches an end to her madness. Charlotte Gilman s manipulation of language and syntax in her prose is crucial to the overall effect of the story. What the reader is presented is a story that uses language and syntax to portray a woman s changing mental state. The reader experiences the narrator s deteriorating mental state as she succumbs to her condition and eventually loses her sanity.

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