Trapped Inside Freedom
The stories “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and “The Man Who Was Almost a Man” by Richard Wright create two distinct characters, Jane and Dave, who are eventually destroyed by their obsessions. They both reveal the consequences of impulsive and desperate actions of their main characters attempt to free themselves from their proverbial prisons. Through the use of imagery and symbolism, Gilman and Wright present the compelling need in us all to be powerful and unrestrained.
To escape from their individual constraints, Jane, the narrator in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” and Dave, “The Man Who Was Almost a Man,” become fixated on objects that eventually lead to their destruction. Striving to get well from a sickness that her husband John does not believe exists, Jane begins to become engrossed with an unappealing wallpaper. Treating her like a child with an overactive imagination, John forces her stay in a room “with windows [that are]barred” (747), and a “great immovable bed” (750). Symbolizing the stereotypical 19th century marriage, the wallpaper becomes a hated entity, one that must be demolished. Gilman writes:
“The color is hideous enough, and unreliable enough, and infuriating enough, but
the pattern is torturing. . . . I pulled and she shook, I shook and she pulled, and
before morning we had peeled off yards of that paper. . . . And then when the sun
came and that awful pattern began to laugh at me, I declared I would finish it
today. . . .Then I peeled off all the paper I could reach standing on the floor. It
sticks horribly and the pattern just enjoys it! All those strangled heads and
bulbous eyes and waddling fungus growths just shriek with derision! (752, 755) Although Jane’s removal of the wallpaper leads to a role reversal, John becoming weak and Jane becoming strong, it also causes her insanity. “‘I’ve got out at last,’ said I, ‘in spite of you and Jane. And I’ve pulled off most of the...
Cited: Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Literature for Composition. Ed. Sylvan Barnet, William Burto, and William E. Cain. 9th ed. New York: Longman, 2011. 746-756. Print.
Wright, Richard. “The Man Who Was Almost a Man.” Literature for Composition. Ed. Sylvan Barnet, William Burto, and William E. Cain. 9th ed. New York: Longman, 2011. 757-65. Print.
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