The Fall of the House of Usher and The Yellow Wallpaper Comparative Analysis

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Throughout the majority of most people’s lives, they come across individuals battling their inner demons, self-esteem issues, and depression in itself, and the recovery road out of it is a difficult and very long process. I myself have dealt with this in many different points of my life since I was a kid, teenager, and young adult. I’ve especially dealt with self-image problems which have intrigued me the most into this story, The Yellow Wallpaper, which I look forward to deciphering more in this analysis. The narrator of this story who is also the main character is nameless and will be referred to as the narrator throughout this writing. One story I found to be very similar to it was The Fall of the House of Usher. These stories are similar in the sense that they involve characters who are dealing with mental illness without the treatments that are needed. Along with this, they are living in houses that are deteriorating similarly to the characters. The text argues that the treatments given to the characters don’t correspond to the actual needs of their lifestyle and sends them deeper into the dark descent. Due to the nature of society and patriarchy in the time of the story, the main character of The Yellow Wallpaper is unable to speak up to her husband, John, who is also a doctor and prescribes treatment of isolation. Similarly, in The Fall of the House of Usher, the characters do not deal with their problems in the correct way which leads them to mental illness and later causes them to die. In both of the stories, the houses similarly deteriorate as the characters are deteriorating themselves, mentally and physically. Both stories are written in a gothic nature but are also written to extend awareness to the situation of women in a patriarchal society and how it causes them to live within it.

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Charlotte Perkins Gillman wrote this story intending to bring awareness to the topic of women and to help restore humanity in equality between the genders. One author that portrays a similar message differently during a period of time like this is Edgar Allan Poe in the story of The Fall of the House of Usher, and not only is it a similar message, but the story itself is similar in the fact that both of the main characters suffer from mental illness, and they are also both stuck in a place that is making them become rotten. In The Fall of the House of Usher, Madeline’s life has always been suppressed due to her society and her home life and it is reflected and shown in various ways throughout the story. Madeline is always the one to listen and not speak. When Madeline is told to do something she commends to those orders and that is the lifestyle she continually lives within the story. Surprisingly enough her twin brother does the opposite and has to have the final word in every situation. In an attempt to show defiance and boldness to the society in which he lives. In addition to this, he follows up with his defiance and boldness with dominance, which is not surprising to the culture of women in a patriarchal society. Poe puts a deeper meaning on some of his lines within the story, ‘half-smothered in its oppressive atmosphere.” In an attempt to show the reality of Madeleine’s situation in a patriarchal society. She is being pushed to the bottom of a world that doesn’t even allow her to exist in a normal way. Referring back to The Yellow Wallpaper, the narrator has dealt with her depression by writing to herself in her novel in an attempt to speak out her problems since she doesn’t have a chance to do so to her husband. Not only does Poe have a way with his words, but so does Gillman. She puts a spin on this quote, “It is the same woman, I know, for she is always creeping, and most women do not creep by daylight…” This quote not only represents how the women inside of the wall feels, but also how the narrator herself feels. She says this quote to show she feels for the women in the wallpaper and how it relates to her, almost as if creeping through the daylight allows women to escape from the patriarchal world they are surrounded by.

The narrator not only lives in isolation but goes about life in hiding, similar to the thoughts in Madeline’s head and how she is not able to speak about the world almost living in secrecy in her way. Referring back to The Yellow Wallpaper, it’s obvious to tell she is writing in a fast manner to express her current problems at hand. She is hiding her writings from everyone else and her writings transcend from just her day to day life to more and more of the wallpaper and the effect it is having on her. It also seems to be that she was an author before her becoming depressed and it later became her way of self-reflection and like a psychologist to herself. “Forbidden to ‘work’ until I am well again . . . I did write for a while in spite of them” (Gilman 468). This shows that her work was most likely writing-related and taking someone’s favorite hobby is close to taking away someone’s true soul and limiting them in all of their creativity. So not only did she hide her favorite hobby, writing, but she also hid her sleep habits. At nights she would act as if she was asleep and her husband truly knew she wasn’t. John would talk to his Jennie, John’s sister, and find out that her sleeping habits were mainly throughout the day showing she didn’t sleep at night. Although, he would never address the problem which is similar to how he never addressed the problems of her mental health in the right way, “He knows there is no reason to suffer, and that satisfies him.” Even though she had no reason to suffer it didn’t mean that she didn’t feel the way she did from the separation of her and her child. I feel that this in itself drove her to become crazy because the person giving her the treatments knew there were problems beyond the fact of mental health. It was becoming more of an illness than depression and the isolation was only making this worse. In comparison to The Fall of the House of Usher, two of the main characters, Roderick and Madeline both suffered from mental illness. In the story, Roderick urgently felt he needed to see his friend and once he saw Roderick he realized something was wrong, “he had gray-white skin; eyes large and full of light; lips not bright in color, but of a beautiful shape; a well-shaped nose; the hair of great softness – a face that was not easy to forget” (Poe 24). His friend felt that Roderick wasn’t even coherent with himself, almost as if he was a soul stuck in the body of a person, “like a spirit that had come back from beyond the grave” (Poe 26). Showing that once the person develops this sense of reality that it is hard to establish what oneself looks like to others and how they look to the world itself.

Within both of the stories, The Yellow Wallpaper and The Fall of the House of Usher, they contain an underlying message related to the fact that the houses are connected to the people living inside of them. In The Fall of the House of Usher as the characters begin to become very ill the house begins to physically deteriorate which symbolizes the house being connected to the health of the characters. Not only this, but it is also felt that the house has human characteristics similar to what the characters are going through during that time, ‘I looked upon the scene before me—upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain—upon the bleak walls—upon the vacant eye-like windows—upon a few rank sedges—and upon a few white trunks of decayed trees.” Then later on in the story as the fungus began to spread Roderick and Madeline were also getting sick and the roof had started to crack. Showing that the house has a connection to the health of the characters. In the house of The Yellow Wallpaper, something very similar occurs with the mental health of the narrator and the room around her in this scenario. As the walls of the house begin to change, the narrator’s mental health is also declining at a similar rate. Not only does she see the walls changing but she also begins noticing patterns and starts to analyze the walls nonstop. Towards the end of the story, she believes others are being affected by the walls and claims she’s seen Jennie interacting with the wall, “I caught Jennie with her hand on it once. She didn’t know I was in the room,. and when I asked her in a quiet, a very quiet voice, with the most restrained manner possible, what she was doing with the paper – she turned around as if she had been caught stealing, and looked quite angry – asked me why I should frighten her so!” Then towards the end, she locks herself in the room and starts ripping off the wallpaper and believes there’s a woman in the wall, “I really have discovered something at last. Through watching so much at night, when it changes so, I have finally found out. The front pattern does move – and no wonder! The woman behind shakes it! Sometimes I think there are a great many women behind, and sometimes only one, and she crawls around fast, and her crawling shakes it all over.” She finally felt that she had discovered something in all of the time she was in isolation and she felt a form of gratification due to the mental illness she unfortunately obtained.

In conclusion, both stories utilize their great authors to convey messages during a time of rising in the world. It was needed to help transcend their messages from a small label to a higher level and the reader reading the story can understand this once they decipher it deeply. For certain readers it may take some time to realize what the author’s purpose is, as it did for myself, but the authors are only trying to allow their underlying message to be spread to the world. Particularly, the message of how women were previously treated in former societies and how the world allowed this to go on for years due to the corruption at the head of governments, politics, society, and the important influencers of the world. Once people realized they could fight for what they believe in and conquer things of their dreams they realized how much power was at the hands of the people. Beyond this and the author’s purpose of the two stories the stories themselves are similarly related in many different ways. Due to the fact that they all dealt with mental illness, improper treatments, impartial societies, and in households that allowed their problems to descend further into illnesses. With that being said these stories help society grow from what it once was and allows future generations to go back in history and recall how life was once like.  

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