"The Yellow Wall-paper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and "The Blue Hotel" by Stephen Crane are two short stories which, beyond the colour references in the title, try to develop certain psychological responses within the reader. I will attempt to show how through two different points of view for narration and other sharp differences, they actually challenge the same psychological question for the reader. The issues of narration, solitary and collective perspectives and conflicts, obsession, mood shifts and rise of madness, "genderization" and open conclusions will be discussed. Readers' responses to a text are very influenced by the narration. In "The Yellow Wall-paper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the story is a first person narration. Moreover, the narrator is homodiegetic, in other terms, she belongs to the story, and she is even the protagonist. Since the readers perceive the text only through her eyes, she becomes very influential. In "The Blue Hotel" by Stephen Crane, it is a regular third person narration in which the narrator is heterodiegetic, that is to say that he or she (although/but there are some clues for a masculine voice) does not belong to the story. Though it will be seen that, even with this seemingly "detached" narration, the opinion of the narrator can influence the reading of the text. With the point of view comes the question of the reliability that the readers have in the narrator.
[...] The two experiences have also gender as a major difference which influences the narration and the readers' response to the text. Indeed, Yellow Wall-paper” tells the experience of madness from a feminine point of view. Charlotte Gilman criticizes the Victorian social oppression of women –especially with the Cult of True Womanhood- and its very patriarchal aspects. Thus, her narrative can be touching for the female readers of today (maybe even more because of the feminist movements) because it deals with what women were submitted to before they could be free. [...]
[...] Indeed in Yellow Wall-paper”, we could say that the protagonist is not reliable because she is mad (creeping on the floor and over her husband in the very creepy last scene). But at the same time, maybe she was not that mad at the beginning, and they (the physicians) drove her mad with their very special treatment (weight augmentation, sleep, writing and thinking interdictions, special diet, isolation, drug prescriptions In the same way in Blue Hotel”, it can be argued that the protagonist is not reliable because he is paranoiac (with al his obsessions). [...]
[...] Indeed, the mood shifting and obsessions that the readers have noticed in the two protagonists have led them to consider their cases as serious. Readers have every reason to believe that they are crazy. In Yellow Wall-paper”, the main character attributes human behavior to the wallpaper, an inanimate element: “This paper looks to me as if it knew what a vicious influence it (Gilman 835). She sounds like as if she was suffering from some kind of paranoia: “There is one marked peculiarity about this paper, a thing nobody seems to notice but myself” (839). [...]
[...] In Yellow Wall-paper”, the obsession of the character- narrator is focused on the wallpaper of her room and the yellow colour of it. As soon as page 834, she depicts it in a very detailed manner, showing already her interest and foreshadowing the importance that it is going to take in the story. Later, she claims her only focus: “only the paper” (Gilman 836), “that is why I watch it always” (839). Obsessions should always be taken seriously by the readers and they should ask themselves why this thing is in particular the object of the character's obsession. [...]
[...] The huis clos atmosphere (confinement of the action and characters in a single room) also present in Yellow Wall- paper” increases this uneasiness that climbs up to reach a climax when the protagonists mentally break down. The repetitions of certain phrases by the protagonists also add as another sign of their madness, building up a tension. “Have a drink?” is for example constantly repeated by the Swede, which gets on the bartender's nerves and the gamblers' so much that he gets stabbed by one of them. [...]
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