Comparing Jane Eyre And Yellow Wallpaper

1653 words - 7 pages

Similarities Between Jane Eyre and Yellow Wallpaper

   There are notable similarities between Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper and Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. These similarities include the treatment of space, the use of a gothic tone with elements of realism, a sense of male superiority, and the mental instability of women.

There is a similar treatment of space in the two works, with the larger, upstairs rooms at the summer lodging and at Thornfield Hall being associated with insanity and the smaller rooms below being safer and saner. Gilman's narrator expresses an early desire to move downstairs to a smaller, saner room, but her wish is ignored. Large rooms become haunted rooms in both stories as typified by the room with the yellow wallpaper, the Red Room, and the third floor room beyond which Bertha is confined.

Both works contain gothic elements, but there is a conscious effort on the part of both narrators to dispel the gothic tone with elements of realism. Gilman's narrator begins to describe her eerie summer lodgings, but notes "there was some legal trouble with the heirs and co-heirs... That spoils my ghostliness, I am afraid" (11). Jane likewise is both affected by and resists the supernatural. For instance, she notes along with Grace Poole's fantastic laughter, her affinity for beer. However, the most notable similarity between the two works is the presence in each house of a "madwoman in the attic" (to borrow from Gilbert and Gubar). In the case of Gilman's narrator (unnamed, but with one ambiguous reference that it may be Jane) and Bertha, madness id the result of traditional Victorian marriages, from which both transgress. Clearly implied in Gilman's text and interpretable in Bronte's text is a critique of the Victorian patriarchal conception of marriage. In The Yellow Wallpaper and Jane Eyre, madness is the result of patriarchal oppression in marriage.

            A motif of doubling between a sane woman and a madwoman exists in both works. In The Yellow Wallpaper the narrator is doubled by the ghostly image of a creeping woman behind the pattern of the paper. Bertha serves as Jane's mad double in Jane Eyre. The mad double is used as a warning of the future potential of the narrator. Unheeded, as in The Yellow Wallpaper, the doubles conflate and the narrator goes mad. Throughout The Yellow Wallpaper, John, the narrator's physician husband, patronizes her, trivializes her illness, ignores her intuitions and dismisses her intellect. He refers to her in non-human analogies, calling her "a blessed little goose" (15). Likewise, Rochester uses non-human analogies to refer to his women. His persistent diction for Jane is "fairy" and "sylph." More sinisterly, he refers to Bertha with bestial imagery. Despite the positive nature of the imagery for Jane, it is nonetheless non-human imagery, differing thus in degree and intent but not in substance from his diction for his mad wife. The non-human diction for...

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