Shades of Madness and Insanity in Yellow Wallpaper, A Worn Path, and Mulatto
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Varying Shades of Insanity in Yellow Wallpaper, A Worn Path, and Mulatto
The human psyche is a very complex, intricate thing. Why does one person act one way, while another acts completely differently? I have read three stories that have given me insight on this subject. They are "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, "A Worn Path" by Eudora Welty, and Mulatto by Langston Hughes. In each of these stories, the main character exhibits a peculiar personality trait, but each stems from a different experience.
"The Yellow Wallpaper" is a story of a married woman, Jane, who suffers from a debilitating nervous condition. This story is based on a cure for the disease, called the "rest cure." Dr. S. Weir Mitchell developed this treatment which required confining the patient to a hotel, hospital, or a residence that was isolated from much human contact, such as the one described in the story. The patient was to have complete bed rest, a drastic change in diet, and sometimes even electric shock therapy. Charlotte Perkins Gilman had experienced this treatment in her own life, so she had first-hand knowledge of what she was writing about in this story (Gilman 491).
The setting of this story is a room in a house in which Jane lives for a summer with her husband John, who is a physician. The room is large, almost the size of the entire floor. She is on medication, "phosphates or phosphites-- whichever it is," for her condition, and she has been forbidden to work (Gilman 491). Unfortunately, she was also not allowed to write, which was a deprivation of the only outlet she had. Therefore, on most days, she spent her time in that room with nothing to do except look at the four walls. In the beginning of the story we can sense that maybe she is a little crazy. She describes the house as if it is a castle. Then she says that "there is something strange about the house-- I can feel it" (Gilman 492). Next, we learn of the intriguing yellow wallpaper.
The wallpaper, at first, is her nemesis. She begs John to repaper the room; it scares her. "The paper looks to her as if it knew what a vicious influence it had" (Gilman 494). In her perception, the paper has eyes and exerts some sort of power over her.