The Yellow Wallpaper & Hamlet

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Brittany Baldwin
Professor Brittany Hall
Composition II
9 May 2013
To Be Or Not To Be In The Wallpaper: Insanity in The Yellow Wallpaper And Hamlet Madness, psychopathology, craziness, derangement, and lunacy are all terms that have a definition that is similar to that of insanity. This theme of insanity is compellingly common between Hamlet by William Shakespeare and The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Insanity, also referred to in the vernacular as madness, is defined as “the condition of being insane; a derangement of the mind; such unsoundness of mind as frees one from legal responsibility …” (insanity). This concept of insanity is illustrated in both stories as the characters parallel one another and are both to some degree deranged. From the onset of the story, the main character in The Yellow Wallpaper is portrayed as genuinely mad, with the grandeur of her insanity increasing as the story progressed. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, some people believe that Hamlet succumbed to true madness after seeing his father’s ghost. On the other hand, many people believe, from different observations, that Hamlet was just feigning madness throughout the story. Furthermore, in Hamlet, Ophelia (Hamlet’s lover) becomes genuinely mad once her father is killed and she is shunned by Hamlet. Clearly, the concept of insanity is a theme demonstrated through numerous characters in both of these stories. Feigned madness is actually seen throughout both stories as well. In the beginning of The Yellow Wallpaper, the woman, who is never given a name, appears to have a madness which is attributed to a post-pregnancy mental breakdown, yet as the story progresses it becomes clearer that she is moving toward genuine insanity. By the end of the story, she becomes completely schizophrenic. Although the end result is pure insanity, the reader is not fully aware if during the story if she is genuinely mad, or if she simply appears insane because of her bizarre situation. In...
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