In the early twentieth century a writer’s work usually represented one’s surroundings. In the stories ‘Wunderkind’; by Carson McCullers and ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’; by Charolotte Gilman, there are examples of the immediate surroundings taking affect in their writings. Both writers prove a point, conditions and attitudes presented in the early 20th century influenced and often extinguished the potential or imagination of the artist. In most cases a person becomes what his/her surroundings let them. A person’s family, friends, neighborhood and every day things will shape and mold one’s morals and character.
In ‘The Yellow Wallpaper,’; the narrator is also the author. Charolotte Gilman writes about her struggle with insanity. Her imagination slowly extinguished and dwindled because of attitudes present in this era. The story takes place in a house in the countryside. John’s plan was to get his wife away from all the hustle and bustle and have her relax. John, a doctor, along with another doctor, gave John’s wife a prescription of exercise, rest and absolutely no writing. They believed (along with society) that this was the best thing for people suffering from insanity.
John never came out and said she was going insane. He just said she was stressed and needed rest. He actually told her not to think about her condition; it would only make things worse. So for the few weeks they were on vacation, she tried to follow his prescription except for when she would secretly write. It was a favorite passion of hers that gave her a break from society’s daily stresses. On a daily basis she was stuck in her house with no one to talk to because John would go to town for days at a time. She wasn’t allowed to take care of her baby. She couldn’t even talk to people about how she felt.
In this time period women didn’t have as much say as they do now. Both her brother and her husband told her that this was the best thing for her recovery. She couldn’t say no when her husband was telling her not to write. I believe that because of her surroundings which her husband put her in she went insane much faster. The fact that she couldn’t write and didn’t really have anyone to talk to drove her to start hallucinating about the women in the wall. The wallpaper in the room became one of her fetishes. ‘There are things in the wallpaper that nobody knows about but me, or ever will. ;(Narrator, 534)
It wasn’t just a small fetish at the end, but a large portion of her day would be spent contemplating about the walls, colors, and designs. She even believed she could smell the wallpaper, throughout the whole house and even in her hair. Her mind started comprehending herself as the woman in the wallpaper. The woman was stuck in the wall night after night just like her being stuck in the house. ‘The faint figure behind seemed to shake the pattern, just as if she wanted to get out,’; (Narrator 534). Which was exactly what she wanted. She couldn’t express herself in the ways she wanted to.
She didn’t have any way of venting her emotions; writing was her escape. Most of the time she was by herself and didn’t have anyone to talk to, and when her husband was there she couldn’t really talk to him about all the things she wanted to. That’s the symbolism behind the figure in the wallpaper. Both she and the figure in the wall wanted to escape, but neither could. She created this hallucination, in the sense that it was herself, someone she could relate to. She tore up her room during what seemed to be a breakdown. The wall paper was ripped off the walls in numerous spots.
In her own mind she was trying to free herself and her other self in the wall. I can’t say exactly what she was thinking, but I’m guessing when the figure in the wall was free, so was she. Many times her husband stayed in town for long periods of time, which gave her plenty of time to do nothing. She couldn’t write because of John. Writing is a great way to channel your feelings and thoughts. She was stuck in a lonely house with a mental disability. It seemed to get worse on a daily basis and she couldn’t really talk to anybody about how she was feeling. This was a feeding ground for the disease (insanity) to get worse.
Her potential was crushed every day she wasn’t allowed to write, along with the fact she couldn’t leave the house or even talk to her friends. Your potential can only grow if you nourish it and give it what it needs. If you neglect it, it will slowly diminish. In this case, she needed an environment that she could use her writing skills and interact and communicate with others. Because of John crushing her potential, two serious things could result. (along with others) She could lose some of her skills over time and it could also make her extremely unhappy and probably depressed.
When you have a love for something and you can’t do it, that creates inner turmoil, which doesn’t help anybody. These are only a few of the results of suppressing your artistic ability. This is only one person, that attitudes during the 20th century extinguished her potential. Think about the thousands of lives that also had this happen to them, because of societal views. This time period didn’t have much knowledge about insanity or how to treat it. This is why the author, along with many others, have had their artistic skills smothered because of attitudes present in the past and even today’s society.
In today’s day and age we know all the symptoms and how to treat it. This is partly due to Charolotte Gilman and her struggle. The doctor that had treated her has actually changed his method of trying to cure insanity. It’s a known fact now that interaction with others and demonstrating artistic skills help in cases like these. She was isolated and couldn’t express herself to others. When she tried to tell John that she was better in her body aspect but not in her mind he cut her off and told her never to speak like that again. ‘So of course I said no more on that score, and we went to sleep before long’; (Narrator 535).
She knew what helped her and what hurt her. She said a few times that she wanted to go home. The narrator even thought to herself ‘I think sometimes that if I was only well enough to write a little it would relieve the press of ideas and rest me’; (Narrator 531). Today’s cures come from listening to patents and seeing what works and what doesn’t. If they used these methods back then there would be a good chance she would have never started hallucinating and her room would still have yellow wallpaper. In the end she couldn’t cope with her mental problems.
She couldn’t cope with being enslaved in the yellow room that seemed so much like a prison to her. ‘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’;(540). In the story ‘Wonderkind’; a teacher works with a brilliant piano student who is overcome by societal forces. She’s a young girl that plays the piano with a great skill. Her skill is to play with her heart and her emotions. Her teacher, Misater Bilderbach was an older man that strived to see her play to the best of her ability.
Carson McCullers does a fantastic job when writing this story. Her descriptions of the characters and their surroundings and even feelings make you feel like you are actually there. When the young girl plays the piano with her emotions she plays great. This story involves a lot of depicting of emotion through peoples hands. Just like when you’re reading the story, if you try to use your emotions you understand it that much better. Carson McCullers uses small descriptions to describe big things. ‘She could see her fingers sinking into a blur of piano keys’; said Bienchen (1842).
This is one of the first signs that she is not all there. She can still play the same music but the feeling she put in to it is starting to go astray. Whenever the author describes someone’s hands, he is also describing their emotion at that time. In this story the author uses the characters’ hands to describe their emotions and personality. ‘Her hands still twitching unconsciously to the motions of the fugue, closed over her bony knees. Tired she was’;(author, 1844). This is showing just how much emotion she is putting in to playing the piano. Her energy was gone.
The more she worked with Mr. Bilderbach the more her feelings of self consciousness came out. ‘But today she felt that she would notice him from the corner of her eye and be disturbed’; (Bienchen 1849). She started to care less about herself and her piano skills and more about Misater Bilderbach would be thinking. At this time the author starts to show her becoming timid. She had a fear of being rejected or not being good enough for what Misater Bilderbach. As time went on she became more and more affected by this self conscious disease. ‘She felt that the marrow’s of her bones were hollow and there was no blood left in her.
Her heart that had been springing against her chest all afternoon felt suddenly dead. She saw it gray and limp and shriveled at the edges like an oyster. ‘; (Bienchen 1851) This girl isn’t there for herself any more. She ended up grabbing all of her books and supplies and walked out. There is a connection between Bienchen and Carson McCullers. These two are very much like each other. No matter what you do, if you do it with your emotion you do it better. Carson McCullers writes about a young girl that has a fantastic talent. Carson McCullers also was a great pianist at a young age.
The reason that Carson McCullers could describe this story so well is because he experienced somewhat of the same life as her character did. At one point in both these authors lives, conditions or attitudes present in the early 20th century influenced and extinguished their potential or imagination of their lives. These books were important because they taught others about problems in society that needed to be changed. The Yellow Wall Paper influenced and extinguished their potential or imagination of their lives. These books were important because they taught others about problems in society that needed to be changed.
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