In Heinrich Von Kleist's The Marquise of O. and Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper, the female protagonist is terribly mislabeled. The inaccuracies in treatment, administered by seemingly authoritative and knowledgeable characters -- family members and a medically certified spouse, respectively -- result in tragic deterioration of the state of mind of both the Marquise and The Yellow Wallpaper's narrator. The delineation of each character's weakness is comprised of blatant references to an applied infantile image and approaching unstable mentality. In The Marquise of O, the Marquise is thrust unwillingly into the external world; in The Yellow Wallpaper, the narrator is locked away unwillingly in an interior world. Though both are persecuted because of their gender, in The Marquise of O, the Marquise is troubled by the symbolic rebirth of her womanhood; while in The Yellow Wallpaper, the narrator is troubled by the symbolic death of her womanhood.
Kleist begins his delineation of the Marquise with terms such as "widowed,", "a lady," and "the mother of several well-brought-up children" (Kleist 68). In this introduction the reader learns that the Marquise has experienced both marriage and childbirth. In respect to her deceased husband, the Marquise avoids remarriage and returns to her family's home with her parents, brother and children. The Marquise transforms her role as lover and wife to daughter and mother, therefore stifling an aspect of her womanhood. It is not until she is unknowingly sexually assaulted and made pregnant that her femininity is reborn.
The narrator of Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper, on the other hand, se...
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...mother realize the identity of her daughter's rapist before the Marquise, establishing irony and advancing engagement between reader and text. It is also clear to the reader that by the conclusion of The Yellow Wallpaper, the narrator has become maniacal.
Though confined to similar situations, Kleist's Marquise and Gilman's narrator are delineated in very different manners. While the Marquise displays boldness and determination in locating her assailant, the narrator of The Yellow Wallpaper allows the intriguing wallpaper to take control of her senses. Both stories exhibit the consequence of a mythical diagnosis administered to an initially sane and healthy person.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wallpaper. Ed. Dale H. Bauer. New York: Bedford, 1998.
Kleist, Heinrich Von. The Marquise of O-. London: Penguin Books, 1978.
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