Charlotte Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper"
and Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea.
Charlotte Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" and Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea are stories about women's tragic lives in the late nineteenth and mid twentieth centuries. These two stories contain many similarities. In the novel Wide Sargasso Sea, the main character Rochester drives his wife to insanity. Similarly, in the short story "The Yellow Wallpaper", John drives his wife insane. In addition, both women are isolated, oppressed, and ignored. Wide Sargasso Sea
In Wide Sargasso Sea, much of Antoinette Cosway's life is concerned with her isolation and oppression. She is isolated and oppressed from her society, her mother, and, later, her husband. These relationships are crucial to the life of Antoinette. To begin with, young Antoinette experienced isolation early in her life. As a white Creole child, she lived in the farm within a black society that hates her and her family. Very often Antoinette and her family are called white cockroaches: I never looked at any strange negro. They hated us. They called us white cockroaches. One day a little girl followed me singing, Go away white cockroach, go away.' I walked fast, but she walked faster. White cockroach, go away, go away. Nobody wants you. Go away.' (Rhys 13) The entire black society wants the family to suffer, knowing that Antoinette's father died and the farm went to ruin. After her father's death, they understand that the family lost male strength and thus, they turned against Antoinette, her mother, and her little brother. Her mother, Annette, still young and beautiful, tries to survive and remarries a wealthy man, Mr. Mason. This act does not diminish the community's hatred. Eventually, they force the family out of town by setting fire to the house. With sadness and horror, Antoinette says, "Nothing would be left, the golden ferns and the silver ferns, the orchids and the honeysuckle, and the picture of the Miller's daughter" (Rhys 27). When the family tries to get away, the black society mocks her family by saying: "Look, the white niggers! Look the damn white niggers" (Rhys 27). Antoinette watches her house burn to the ground and then suddenly, she notices her friend, Tia, among a crowd of slaves. Instead of running away from them, Antoinette runs toward them but Tia hits her with a stone: I saw Tia and her mother and I ran to her
. As I ran, I thought, I will live with Tia and I will be like her. Not to leave Coulibri. Not to go. Not. When I was close I saw the jagged stone in her hand but I did not see her throw it. I did not feel it either, only something wet, running down my face crumple up as she began to cry. We stared at each other, blood on my face, tears on hers. It was as if I saw myself. Like in a looking glass. (Rhys 27). As Uraizee points out, "despite [Antoinette] being subject to racial prejudice, [when] Tia seems to find some kind of security in her blackness that Antoinette, for all her money and power, lacks" (n.p.). Antoinette was unconscious for six weeks as a result of what Tia had done to her, but even though Tia and Antoinette were the same age, shared similar interests and were once best friends. Obviously, Tia hurt Antoinette badly, so Antoinette suffered greatly not only physically but also mentally- she lost her the only one friend. At this point Antoinette is in pain and is very lonely. All these incidents described Antoinette's isolation and oppression within the society she existed. Moreover, isolated and oppressed Antoinette suffers from lack of her mother's attention. Annette ignores her daughter all the time. Annette speaks of taking away, her younger son, Pierre, with her but never mentions Antoinette. "I will not stay at Coulibri any longer' my mother said. It is not safe for Pierre" (Rhys 21). Annette pushes her daughter away without emotion and concentrates her attention...
Cited: Berkin, Ruth Carol. "Self-Images: Childhood and Adolescence." Critical Essays on Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Ed. Joanne Karpinski. New York: G.K. Hall,1992.
Ciolkowski, Laura. "Navigating the Wide Sargasso Sea: colonial history, English fiction, and British Empire." Twentieth Century Literature 43 (1997): 339-359. WilsonSelectPlus. USF Library, Sarasota. 14 Nov. 2002.
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