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Comparison Of Two Short Stories "The Yellow Wall Paper" V. "Death By Landscape"

1303 words - 5 pages

"Death by Landscape" v. "The Yellow Wallpaper""She was tired a lot, as if she was living not one life but two: her own, and another, shadowy life that hovered around her and would not let itself be realized…" (391). For many, the "shadowy life" of mental illness hinders one's ability to be happy and whole. Mental illness and delusion has been a fascinating but devastating topic throughout human existence, and as such, has provided much interesting literature, both fictional and factual. Two stories from two completely different time periods: "The Yellow Wallpaper," 1898, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and "Death by Landscape," 1939, by Margaret Atwood both have deep roots in humans' infatuation with mental illness. In both stories, while having different points of origin, the protagonist's deteriorating mental health is the main theme- in both cases it leads them to become obsessed with specific visual stimuli, which then leads them to become dreadfully dethatched from reality.Though mental illness is a main theme in both stories, the authors chose to cover the topic differently. In "The Yellow Wallpaper" there is no real cause associated with the narrator's depression/delusional state, or at least none talked about in the short story- it is simply present at the beginning. In "Death by Landscape," there is a much larger focus on where the main character Lois's mental instability stems from; at summer camp her best friend, Lucy, mysteriously disappears when the two are off in the woods. On top of the shock from this loss, other girls at the camp and even a councilor imply that Lois purposely pushed Lucy off a cliff. The traumatic experience mixed with the alienation Lois feels undoubtedly leads to her mental illness. Paranoia haunts and torments Lois to the point where she imagines people in her adult life saying, "Could she have done it? She must have done it. For the rest of her life, she… caught people watching her in this way" (390). In any case, this sense of paranoia and feeling of separation from others shared by the main characters from both stories causes much greater problems down the line.As the result of their mental illness, both protagonists become visually obsessed with a certain object- this key plot element offers the audience the opportunity to truly understand the illogical, delusional side of both persons without the author simply describing their instabilities. In "The Yellow Wallpaper," as the title implies, the narrator becomes obsessed with a wall paper found in the bedroom of her new home. Over time, the narrator becomes increasingly occupied with examining its intricate design. She even says, "I lie here on this great immovable bed…and follow that pattern about by the hour," in the journal she secretly keeps (82). She even begins to believe that the pattern moves at night, and begins to become nocturnal simply to inspect it after dark. After months of this restless examination, she comes to the point...

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