Isolation and Its Effect on Mental Health
In the two stories “The Yellow Wallpaper” and “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World” a common theme of isolation appears. The Yellow Wallpaper focuses on a woman with what her husband, also a physician, diagnoses as “slight hysterical tendency” (Gilman 677). She is forbidden to go outside her home and is completely isolated from the rest of the world. She is also forbidden to express herself through writing and has no mental stimulation, which enables her to focus all her time on the wallpaper. In “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World” there is a basic community of men, women, and children but the different groups within the village and the village itself is isolated. There is no unity or common goal within the community until a dead man washes ashore and changes the entire villages perspective on life and on themselves. In both stories isolation plays a key role in the mental health and well-being of the characters experiencing it, which inevitably leads to the obsession of a certain object due to the lack of other forms of mental stimulation. In “The Yellow Wallpaper” the theme of isolation is very prominent but is eventually overtaken by freedom within the main character's mind. The narrator is unable to express herself through other outlets so she ends up focusing on the yellow wallpaper within a room in her home. Initially the wallpaper is described as an “unclean yellow” with no pattern within it. As the story progresses the wallpaper transforms and the narrator starts to see a new pattern of a trapped woman trapped behind the wallpaper desperately trying to escape. She says “The front pattern does move—and no wonder! The woman behind shakes it!” which resembles her own situation of being barred inside and therefore isolated from the rest of the world (Gilman 685). Eventually she frees the woman from behind the wallpaper and in the process she sets herself...
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