Analysis of Short Stories “The Yellow Wallpaper” and “The Tell-Tale Heart”

“The Yellow Wallpaper,” by Gilman, Charlotte Perkins short story illustrated the attitudes towards women’s mental and physical health in the 19th century. The story presented in first person is a collection of a woman’s journal entries whose physician husband, John had confined her in a bedroom upstairs. The husband believes that confinement is the best rest cure after the childbirth and forbids her from working where she has to struggle to hide the journal from him.

The confinement affects the narrator’s mental health with the absence of anything to stimulate that she gets obsessed by the color and pattern of the wall paper “It make me think of all the yellow things I ever saw”( Schilb and Clifford 958). The woman refuses to leave the room at the end even after the summer rental finishes and locks herself in there. John opens the door where he faints after finding the wife circling the walls, touching the wallpaper and creeping around the room.

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The short story, “The Tell-Tale Heart,” by Poe, Edgar Allan has an unnamed narrator who strives in convincing the reader of his sanity by describing the murder he already committed. He is suffering from nervous disease that causes his senses to be over acute but he sane. He lives with an old man with a “vulture-like” pale blue eye that distresses the narrator that he plots to kill him. The author asserts, “He had the eye of a vulture –a pale blue eye, with a film over it” (Poe 1251).

The narrator attempts for seven nights but succeeds on the eighth one. He conceals the body in the floorboard even after the neighbor heard the screams and called the police. The guilt of the murder overwhelmed him and he confessed to the police by telling them to reveal the body by tearing the floorboards. The two short stories are very gothic as they include elements associated with Goth. The elements include all the things that make the stories spooky or dark. In this case, the insanity adds to the stories gothic nature.

The stories settings too contribute, For instance, the yellow wallpaper in Gilman’s story and the rented house Poe’s seem spooky and make the reader uneasy or scared. In addition, the mentions of the woman trapped in the wall and the pale blue vulture aye are gothic and disturbing. Secondly, each of the stories has an unnamed and unreliable narrator. As much as they are first person, narratives the names of the narrators are not revealed.

A narrator is termed as unreliable if he cannot precisely describe the story’s event due to youth or madness. In this case, an accurate description of the events in a realistic way is prevented by madness in both narratives. Instead, what is happening and their observations are colored by madness that makes it difficult for the reader to differentiate what to believe and what not to. The absence of the names adds to the distance and uneasiness.

Thirdly, both “The Yellow Wallpaper” and “The Tell-Tale Heart” involve narrators suffering from the mental illness. In both cases, the narrators do not seem to realize that fact themselves neither does the people they interact. John realized the wife was mentally ill late after the vacation when she locked herself inside the room, and sees her crawling the yellow wall that makes him faint. So does the old man with the scary eye. Moreover, the two short stories portray the theme of isolation that results to insanity.

In Gilman’s short story, John takes his wife to a vacation in a country house to recover from a perceived mental breakdown. The woman gets separated from her husband and children in the bedroom upstairs as it was believed that it would aid in her recovery. However, this does not happen as she eventually run mad.

She believes that the woman on the yellow wallpaper was coming out. In Poe’s short story, the man who kills the old man cannot clearly explain to the audience the reason why he killed the old man. After the narrator was isolated with, the dismembered body that hidden beneath the floorboards was enough to drive him nuts. His guilt grows and he starts hearing the dead man’s heartbeat making him confess ultimately to the crime.

In addition, the two stories have a theme of conflict. In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the mentally troubled woman struggles with her husband who is perceived to be the doctor treating her postpartum depression. The conflict is over the treatment and the nature of her illness. She conflicts with her mind about the yellow wallpaper but decides to keep it to herself by writing a personal journal, which she hides from her husband. In “The Tell-Tale Heart “the theme of conflict is explored where the narrator is not at peace with himself. He claims to love the old man but hates his evil eye.

The narrator conflicts with his soul whether to kill the old man or spare him. After hiding the body the narrator, “replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye-not even his- could have detected anything wrong” (Poe 2149). The use of symbolism in both stories is evident, For example, the old man’s eye was pale blue with a “veil” cover. This could be a common medical condition referred to as corneal ulcer. Symbolically it meant that the character had some issues with their inner vision commonly known as problems with one’s outlook of the world. People with such are stuck and everything is obscured.

The eye seemed unseeing and dull yet it had strange powers making the narrators blood run cold. In the yellow wallpaper, several symbols used to show the women’s struggle in the male dominated society and their oppression. The yellow wallpaper itself symbolizes the mental screen men attempted to place on women during 1800s. The writer declares, “I never saw a worse paper in my life” (Gilman 957).

The narrator stated that she is almost completely forbidden from doing any “work” by both her brother and husband (Schilb and Clifford). The color yellow is associated with weakness or sickness and the narrator’s mysterious illness symbolizes the man’s oppression on the females. Gilman writes, “The color is hideous enough, and unreliable enough, and infuriating enough, but the pattern is torturing.” The two windows that the narrator peeps out represent the possibilities of men seeing women as their equals.

In conclusion, the Gilman and Poe stories deal with bizarre events that were openly plausible to the readers. The credibility concept is divisible in that; whether the events occurred as the narrators reported are believable, whether the narrator wad telling the truth as they knew or it was part of the ill condition, and whether the narrators were real and the events indeed happened to them

. Since both the stories dealt with apparent madness, it was difficult to differentiate the actual events and those from the wild narrator’s imaginations. Both the narrators concentrate on making the protagonists’ obsession plausible. Poe’s work was much shorter and he succeeded with the style and tone. He identifies the narrator as mad but underscored by frequent denials. In Gilman’s story, the narrator is understood as mad later in the narrative.

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Analysis of Short Stories “The Yellow Wallpaper” and “The Tell-Tale Heart”. (2016, Jun 21). Retrieved from