Different authors have different ways of writing and conveying messages to their audiences using literal devices such as figures of speech, symbolism and characters to develop the plot of the story and the themes as well. However, regardless of how their styles may differ, most of them tend to speak of almost the same aspects or issues that are affecting the society at that time or related to historical events. Their thoughts tend to converge and in the long run, they illustrate several themes and have some in common. The intent of this work is to discuss the theme of insanity as illustrated in the books “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Gilman and “A Rose for Emily” by Faulkner with a closer focus on the characters. The work will also give a comparison on how these authors use the theme of insanity in their work.
“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Gilman describes the story of a woman, also the protagonist and narrator of the story, who is confined by her husband in a house rented for summer for the sole reason of recovering from depression. She is asked by her doctor, Mitchell Weir, to take a ideal rest as a cure and not to engage in any stimulation activities such as reading and writing (Gilman 4). The author thus illustrates the aftermath of the confinement on the woman’s mental health as she becomes obsessed by the color and pattern of the wall paper in the room (Gilman 4). “A Rose for Emily” on the other hand describes the story of a woman, Emily, who lives a very tough life due to pressure from the society and her family status. She comes from a family that is ranked high in the society and his father has forbidden her from getting marriage to men of a class lower that theirs (Robinette and Faulkner 8). She is thus forced to live a life that is not hers but follow the beliefs and myths of her society. She is confined in a house alone and her insanity peaks when she is engaged in a relationship with a man, Barron Homer, that the society thought was not fit for her because he is just a day laborer (Robinette and Faulkner 14). The society wants her to commit suicide. She consequently buys poison but instead of poisoning herself as was the society’s expectation; she ends up poisoning her lover to death (Robinette and Faulkner 25). She then lays the corpse on her bed so that they can be forever together since she could not stand to relinquish.
From the summaries of these stories, it is clear that both authors try to bring out the theme of insanity though using different approaches. Both authors portray the fact that isolated confinement and segregation from the public may result into insanity. In “The Yellow Wallpaper”, the protagonist suffers from insanity as a result of being trapped alone in a room with a nursery setting. She becomes preoccupied with the yellow wall paper that covers the inner wall. She claims that the extensive colorful patterns on the wall are committing artistic sins (Gilman 4). Her life becomes so monotonous that she relieves herself in writing a diary that she keeps in secret. She continuously analyses the wall and sees "a strange, provoking, formless sort of figure that seems to skulk about behind that silly and conspicuous front design" (Gilman 9). This figure she says is held behind the bars and it is struggling to come out. She also sees her illness on the wall as "not arranged on any laws of radiation, or alternation, or repetition, or symmetry, or anything else that I ever heard of" (Gilman11). From these words she uses, it is clear that she does not have a clear idea of what is causing her suffering. Her only concern is the wall and her whole world revolves around it. This is very strange to a rational person and can only be done by someone who is insane.
In “A Rose for Emily”, Faulkner uses the protagonist, to illustrate the theme of insanity. In foreshadow when the tax collectors approached her for collection of tax, Emily refuses to give them and tells them to “see Colonel Sartoris” (Robinette and Faulkner 29), someone who died a long time ago. This is because her mind convinces her that she is obligated to no levies by the mayor. This is enough proof to show that she is insane because there is no sane person who can utter such words in this society. Also, after the death of Homer, she keeps his body on her bed and even makes love with him as illustrated when the people declared that "We saw a long strand of iron-gray hair" (Robinette and Faulkner 34). She is not bothered by the horrible rotting smell and makes love with a dead body; something that is unheard of in this society. These are true evidences that she was insane.
Both authors use the theme of insanity to show that an individual can become insane not because s/he is a drug addict but because of the role the society and/ or family plays in his/her life. For instance, in both cases, the victims suffer from insanity as a result of the influence from the people close to them. In “The Yellow Wallpaper” and “A Rose for Emily”, the protagonists become insane as a result of influences and pressure from the husband, and father and society respectively; they suffer from upholding role, image and model that is imposed to them by the society (Robinette and Faulkner 20). The only difference is that Emily is from an older, proud era where women were perceived to be a fair sex, while the protagonist in “The Yellow Wallpaper” lives in an era where men dominated the society and women had no say on anything.
In conclusion, “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Gilman and “A Rose for Emily” by Faulkner are developed in a way that they bring out several themes but have one theme in common. Both stories portray the effects of isolation on the mental health of any individual. The authors have mainly used the protagonists and other characters to bring out this theme. This is illustrated in both stories when the protagonists suffer from insanity when they are confined in places where stimulation and interactions are limited. From these fictions, we learn that confinement is not good and therefore people to learn to give other people the freewill to choose which kind of life they want to live and not to be restricted in any way.