It is amazing how differently people see the world. People from different walks of life interpret everyday experiences in different ways. This is ever so apparent when discussing the gaps that occur in stories by great authors. In The Yellow Wallpaper, a woman is being “treated” by a doctor (her husband) for a condition he refers to as anxiety. She is placed in a room, apparently one that was previously inhabited by a mental patient, and told to rest.
Over the course of a few weeks the woman begins to exhibit signs of paranoia and regularly has hallucinations. Through the course of the story, the woman continuously makes reference to the yellow wallpaper. The first, and possibly the greatest, gap in the story comes when interpreting the meaning(s) behind the wallpaper. Does the color yellow infer something about insanity? The woman repeatedly refers to the patterns that the peeling wallpaper makes.
Do the patterns suggest order from chaos? It is apparent, from the number of times that it is mentioned, that the wallpaper plays a role in the mental changes the woman experiences (and details her changes) throughout the story. Part way through the story, she begins seeing a woman moving behind the wallpaper, as if trying to escape it. Is she actually seeing herself in the wallpaper, as suggested by Chris Tildon, or is the hallucination what she fears she is becoming? At the end of the story, she takes on the role of the “creeping” woman and follows a smudge around the room and over her fainted husband.
This supports the idea that she is the woman that has been trapped in the paper. Maybe she feels trapped and tormented by John’s lack of sympathy for her condition. Another story that benefits from gaps is Babylon Revisited by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The gaps in this story are numerous, but the most important gaps involve Charlie’s previous bout with Alcoholism, and his struggle to retrieve his daughter Honoria. Charlie claims to be a reformed man. However, after reading deep into the story, it is apparent that Charlie plays a role in his own downfall. Does Charlie actually try to rid himself of his past, or is he actually perpetuating it? In the story, Charlie visits his old “haunts”, maintains a “one drink a day” attitude, and inadvertently brushes elbows with a couple of old drinking buddies. These actions, although not intentional, contribute to Charlie’s defeat.
At the end of the story, after Charlie fails to get his daughter back, he goes to the bar and has one drink. After this drink, the bartender offers to refill his glass, and Charlie refuses. Rob Widdicombe suggests that this drink is a bad omen, and possibly a hint into what will become of Charlie. In the story, A Rose for Emily, the author leaves many gaps open for the reader to interpret. One gap involves the narrator. This person participates in the story and seems to know a good deal about the life and history of Miss Emily. Who is the narrator and how does this person know so much about her?
Also of interest is the motive behind the murder of Emily’s lover. The reader is left to deduce the reasoning from accounts of Emily’s life given by the narrator. Was she afraid of losing him, due to the fact that he was not southern aristocracy? Why did no one question Emily about the disappearance of Homer? It is clear that the townsfolk held an interest in Emily’s life.
But was this interest due only to the fact that Emily, after her father’s death, was brought down to the same level as most of the other townsfolk? The gaps present in these three stories are numerous. The authors supply the reader with a great amount of freedom when reading the stories. It is the reader who must dig deep and examine the hidden meanings. A new appreciation for the stories comes from looking closely at the events and ideas that the author supplies. This is what makes a story enjoyable.