Symbolism in The Yellow Wallpaper and A Rose for Emily
William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" and Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" hold numerous similarities. Both stories show the influences of society and the slow decay on a particular woman. The title of each piece becomes important to the plot and ultimate outcome. In several ways, each title takes shape to portray symbolism in one sense or another. The references to color identify contradictory messages to those who have not heard of these stories, while the title itself takes physical form and is "living" at some point in the piece.
When first assigned to read "The Yellow Wallpaper," a student may think of a bright, cheerful paper covered room. Little does he realize that, instead of a stereotypical yellow, the wallpaper's "color is...almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow" (Gilman15). It reminds the narrator of "all the yellow things [she] ever saw--not beautiful ones... but old foul, bad yellow things" (23). According to Carol Westcamp, "the author designed the wallpaper...to be yellow for a reason" ("Smouldering"). Even though "yellow is often viewed as a cheerful, joyful color...[it] can also cause unpleasant, exciting, and hostile moods due its symbolism" (Westcamp). The wallpaper takes on a distinctive odor that " 'creeps all over the house,' drenching every room in its subtle aroma of decay" (Gilbert 35). The only thing the narrator "can think of that [the smell] is like is the color of the paper! A yellow smell" (Kivo 23). The narrator feels herself being drawn closer to the brink of insanity by the maddening color and begs her husband to do something about the paper, but he simply laughs at her.
As the story progresses, the narrator notices a figure behind the paper. The figure even shakes the paper at night, so that it appears to come alive before the narrator's eyes! The narrator begins to identify with the figure, seeing it as a creature sharing her own predicament of captivity and, therefore, personifies the figure as a trapped woman. The beginning of the climax is predictable; the narrator sees herself as the woman behind the paper. Carol Westcamp believes that "because the narrator already had mental problems, the color yellow drove her further into insanity" ("Smouldering"). The paper becomes a barrier that the narrator must tear down to survive. It haunts her, and she eventually becomes physically restrained by the "hideous" color and hypnotic pattern of the wallpaper (Kivo 21). In the end, Westcamp discovers that "the psychological effects of the color yellow contribute to the emotional degeneration of the narrator" ("Smouldering").
The physical and color symbolisms in "A Rose for Emily" are not as obvious, but just as strong as in "The Yellow Wallpaper." A first impression, simply from the story's title, implies a piece about a gift of a rose from a young woman's beau or, perhaps, from another...