Entrapment and Confinement

930 Words4 Pages
People encounter restrictions and restraints daily: doors, walls, gates. The most frequently used and arduous are those that are intangible, be it in a job or social life, whether physical or emotional, literal or figurative. Both the tangible and intangible are seen in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” and John Steinbeck’s “The Crysanthemums”. Though written by members of the opposite sex, both authors are able to capture the feelings of physical and emotional imprisonment that causes a gradual mental breakdown. “The Yellow Wallpaper” traces the treatment of a woman who descends from depression to madness in the male-imposed psychiatric confinement of her room, while the wife, Elisa, in “The Crysanthemums”, reflects an internal struggle with herself to find her place in a world of definite gender roles. The situations of the two women are similar: talents and dreams, hopes and desires, shunned by the husbands and times of the women, which leads to hysteria; though similar, the women to conduct themselves ways drastically different from one another, which determines whether the women lose their sanity. The narrator in “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Elisa Allen of “The Crysanthemums” both have husbands who fancy the idea of knowing what their wives want and need. With such attitudes and beliefs, these men contribute to the feeling of confinement that ultimately leads to the loss of sanity of their wives. The narrator’s husband also assumes that he knows what is best for his wife. He thinks isolation and confinement will cure her “nervous depression.” Nevertheless, this “cure” makes her weak; it transforms her into a woman gone mad. On the way to dinner, Elisa asks her husband about the fights and his immediate reply is, “We can go if you want, but I don’t think you would like them much.” He cannot fathom the idea that she may actually enjoy this non-feminine event. The two women follow the pattern of those going mad: eventually, they begin to see things and form relationships with the images that reside only in their minds. The narrator gives into the figments of her imagination and begins to metamorphose this “thing” she imagines behind the wallpaper as a hallucinogenic image of herself. This “woman” becomes a deadly combination: best friend and worst enemy. She views the woman as trapped, and, in order to free herself from this non-fulfilling life, she must free the woman. Elisa also receives an uninvited guest, a tinker who she perceives as the perfect emblem of freedom.
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