The Theme of Power in Yellow Wallpaper and Bartleby

The Theme of Power in Yellow Wallpaper and Bartleby

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The Theme of Power in Yellow Wallpaper and Bartleby


    Many texts written in the nineteenth century have a very apparent theme of power. Authority can be seen very differently depending on the view of the transcript the audience is presented with. By looking at different transcripts within the text the reader has more realistic exposure to the resistance of power in that text. This paper will prove that transcripts of differing views allow for different interpretations of the power struggle itself. Using James C. Scott this paper will examine the transcripts of both Charlotte Perkins Gilman's, "The Yellow Wallpaper" and Herman Melville's "Bartleby." These two texts are opposite in many ways, which make them fascinating to study through Scotts eyes, because together they extensively cover the four situations he focuses on.

The first transcript which Scott discusses is that of the public's view. He describes that "the public transcript is to put it crudely, the self-portrait of dominant elites as they would have themselves seen"(18). Since the narrator of "Bartleby" is a member of the "dominant elite" this text is a great example of how the public transcript is used to show resistance and power. Text written from this point of view, focus on trying to make the elite seem good, just, and noble. The narrator of this text did a wonderful job at doing just that. At one point while talking about Bartleby he told the audience "Not only did there seem to lurk in it a certain calm disdain, but his perverseness seemed ungrateful, considering the undeniable good usage and indulgence he had received from me"(Melville 18). The narrator was basically saying, I was so good to Bartleby, how dare he not appreciate all my kindness. It is...


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...isplay, how within texts there could be many different forms of resistance and views of authority, depending on the transcripts used to understand them. Each text read in this class, on the surface value, provides an entertaining story, however the same text through deeper reading are able to decode much more complex plots. On the surface Bartleby is just a very strange employee, and the narrator of Gilman's story is just an insane woman, but by digging further this paper was able to display much more intensity to them both.

Works Cited

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. "The Yellow Wallpaper" and other Stories. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, Inc., 1997.

Melville, Herman. Bartleby and Benito Cereno. 3rd ed. NY: Dover Publications, Inc., 1990.

Scott, James C. Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990.

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