Roles of Women in the Yellow Wallpaper and a Sorrowful Woman
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In both of the short stories "The Yellow Wallpaper" and "A Sorrowful Woman," the women who are the main characters suffer deeply. Each of the woman is cut off form the world around her, particularly the family she has relationships with. But beyond this, both of them suffer in a different way.
- The woman in The Yellow Wallpaper is patently psychotic.
- The woman in A Sorrowful Woman suffers from a deep depression.
Psychological State of Women
The psychological state of each of the woman is suggested in the opening of the respective short stories. In "The Yellow Wallpaper," the woman and her husband are beginning an vacation at a colonial mansion. The woman describes herself and her husband as "ordinary people"; but her reaction to the house where they will be spending their vacation is not ordinary. She thinks it is a "haunted house," and she thinks there is "something queer about it." But there is really nothing unusual about the house. It is a large house, one that the woman and her husband who are "ordinary people" would not normally live in. But since she is on vacation, there is nothing unusual about staying at a larger and fancier place.
The feelings the woman has about the house are Gilman's technique for revealing her state of mind. There is something about the woman's state of mind where she is not thinking rationally or able to see things as they actually are. The woman tries to read deeply into the situation rather than simply accept it as it appears and try to enjoy her vacation. Rather than appreciate her good fortune in being able to stay at such a fine house, the woman asks "why it should be let so cheaply?" She also wonders why it has been uninhabited for so long. One suspects that the husband has taken her on a vacation in the hope that this would help to abate or cure her troubled mental state. Another technique Gilman uses to reveal the woman's psychotic, agitated, mental state is exclamation points. Along with questioning features of her surroundings, the woman also makes many exclamatory remarks. This questioning and exclaiming indicate the wide swings in her mental state.
The woman's isolation in her psychotic state is also signified early in the story. She mentions that "John [her husband] laughs at me." She also mentions how he is different from her in being practical. A physician, the woman's husband also has a "horror of superstition." And she mentions he scoffs at talk "of things not to be felt" after she has just related her unfounded belief that the house is haunted. The picture the reader gets of the woman in "The Yellow Wallpaper" is that she is in a hyperactive mental state where her imagination is running wild.