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Shutter Island, By Dennis Lehane And The Yellow Wall Paper, By Charlotte Perkins Stetson

998 words - 4 pages

Gothic tales are known for being mysterious and gloomy. Certain elements are integrated throughout the narrative to create the desired effect, and simultaneously suggest other ideas. Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane and “The Yellow Wall-Paper” by Charlotte Perkins Stetson are significantly similar, by the way both settings highlight the idea of madness. The relationship between setting and madness is induced by the display of physical isolation, disturbing elements, and hallucinatory incidents.
To begin, with intent of initiating mystery in gothic stories, the locale is often portrayed as being physically isolated, triggering insanity in the characters. This idea can be demonstrated by the seclusion of the institution for the criminally insane in Shutter Island, as it stands alone on an island, trapping the patients indefinitely. For instance, when Teddy and Chuck were lost in the cemetery during the hurricane, the Warden found them, and Chuck said “it’s an island, boss. They’ll always find us” (154) as Teddy was lost in astonishment. This passage shows that anywhere the patients go, they will always be found, which also demonstrates how the lack of freedom and privacy can drive someone crazy bit by bit. On the other hand, in “The Yellow Wall-Paper”, the protagonist’s room is in “a colonial mansion […] quite alone, standing well back from the road, quite three miles from the village” (249- 250). Additionally, “the place has been empty for years” (250) and that scares Charlotte as she says that it “spoils [her] ghostliness” (250). Moreover, the residence’s seclusion manifests an emotional isolation on the narrator as she mentions that keeping a journal “is such a relief” (255) for the reason that she “must say what [she] feel[s] and think[s] in some way” (255). This depicts the idea that isolation sets the mind to have unusual thoughts, which consequently causes insanity. Also, as the patients in Shutter Island are cut off from society and merely exposed to criminally insane people, it is hard for them to come back to a state of sanity. Briefly, physical isolation of the locale in gothic literature finds its way into establishing madness, nevertheless, additional disturbing elements impact on insanity as well.
Just in the same way as isolation affects the mental state of characters, disturbing elements in their surroundings can lead to this outcome in the narrative. In Stetson’s short story, the description of the room indicates that the “windows are barred […] and there are rings and things in the wall” (250). Additionally, the wallpaper “is stripped off in great patches all around the head of [her] bed, about as far as [she] can reach, and in a great place on the other side of the room low down” (251). These details symbolize how troubling the environment is for Charlotte as she expresses antipathy, especially about the wallpaper by pointing out that “[she] never saw a worse paper in [her] life” (251). In contrast, Lehane depicts guards...

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