Compare and Contrast

Compare and Contrast
The work by Charlotte Perkins Gilman “The Yellow Wallpaper” and the work by Edgar Allan Poe “The Tell-Tale Heart” represent the genre of a short story. In literary terms both these stories look back to the tradition practiced by Edgar Allan Poe – the tradition of the psychological horror tale. Both stories are told from the point of view of an insane author who disclaims being insane and tries to persuade other people and a reader that everything is quite opposite.

Edgar Allan Poe provides a study of mental deterioration and paranoia in “The Tell-Tale Heart”. The short story illuminates the contradictions of psychological character that make a contribution to the narrator’s murderous profile (Poe). In the first sentence of the story the narrator admits that he is dreadfully nervous and cannot comprehend why he could be thought mad: “TRUE! – nervous – very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?” (Poe). He considers his feature of hypersensitiveness to be a manifestation of his sanity; however it is rather a symptom of madness. He is unable to tell his story in clear words, his thoughts tangle. He claims that he is totally sane. However he fixates his narration on the old man’s vulture-eye. He wants to separate the man from the evil. The eye becomes the personification of the man and the narrator is obsessed with this idea. Through the precise form of his narration the main character unwittingly speaks out the details of the murder and therefore gives away the madness he tries to deny.

In “The Tell-Tales Heart” there is a vivid connection between the confession of the main character and his claims and arguments for his sanity and reliability. Being guilty, Poe’s narrator experiences an urge to confess his crimes. He tries to defend his sanity while describing his crime in details. He provides a rational explanation of his mental obsession and explains his criminal actions as excusable ones. However, they are excusable only within his own logic, but not for the world. The form of confession was chosen by Edgar Allan Poe as a very suitable form to explain the content of the actions of the narrator. But the author uses the intimate connection between the content and form to undermine the reliability of the narrator. In “The Tell-Tale Heart” the main character that is also the narrator tries to defend himself against the charges of insanity using the form of the confession. He strongly believes that giving the precise description of the committed murder he will prove his sanity. That appears to be more important for him than to prove himself innocent in the crime. However he does not comprehend that the content of the confession makes the clearness of the form irrelevant. He is just unable to understand that. His irrational attention to the vulture-eye reveals his own mental irrelevance and even pathology.

“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman also contributes greatly to the Poe’s tradition of the psychological horror. The story is also told by an insane narrator. In this case this is woman who presents her point of view of the actions that took place in her life. Ch. Gilman refers to the genre that featured old mansions with secrets. There usually were young female characters who intended to reveal those secrets. However the story presented by the narrator of “The Yellow Wallpaper” is looking-forward. The narration may be referred to the modernistic technique of the stream of consciousness, widely practiced by W. Faulkner, W. Woolf and J. Joyce.

The narrator of the story is a woman who has a husband and a child. Having suffered from a serious depression she takes a course of treatment. Though, it does not seem at all to have much effect on her. Doctors characterize her as a woman with “slight hysterical tendency” (Gilman). However her insanity aggravates. First she feels that there is “something queer” (Gilman) about her illness. She wants to “relieve her mind” (Gilman). She is tired of “rings and things” in her bedroom (Gilman). She is totally obsessed with the yellow wallpapers that cover the walls of her bedroom. The narrator believes that there is woman trapped inside. Her intention is to help the woman, though the narrator is afraid to reveal her intentions as she realizes that no one would ever understand her. By the end of the story a reader comprehends that the character is completely insane as she believes that she herself is a woman from the wallpaper.

Written in different periods of time both short stories have much in common. They are both told by people who are insane, but do not completely realize that. However, the nature of their insanity is different and that fact makes two stories differ from each other. The narrator of the story by E. Poe is extremely bothered by the fact that someone may consider him insane. His main goal is to prove that everything is all right with his mind. The narrator of the story by Ch. Gilman does not think about her state of mind. She is bothered by the saving of women from the wallpaper and has no time to ponder over her own condition.

Works cited:

Poe, Edgar. “The Tell-Tale Heart”. Project Gutenberg. 4 Jan 2000. 21 Jun 2010.
Gilman, Charlotte. “The Yellow Wallpaper”. Project Gutenberg. 11 Jan 1999. 21 Jun 2010.

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