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The Yellow Wallpaper and The Chrysanthemums – Symbols of Entrapment

Talents and dreams, hopes and desires, shunned by the husbands and times of the women in The Crysanthemums and The Yellow Wallpaper. The wife, Elisa, in The Crysanthemums, reflects an internal struggle with herself to find her place in a world of definite gender roles. The Yellow Wallpaper traces the treatment of a woman who descends from depression to madness in the male-imposed psychiatric confinement of her room. The mirror-like situations that hinder the protagonists in both stories call the women to conduct themselves in demeanors drastically different from one another.

Elisa Allen of The Crysanthemums and the narrator of The Yellow Wallpaper both have husbands who fancy the idea of knowing what their wives want and need. On the way to dinner, Elisa asks her husband about the fights and his immediate reply is, We can go if you want, but I dont think you would like them much. He cannot fathom the idea that she may actually enjoy this non-feminie event. The narrators husband also assumes that he knows what is best for his wife. He thinks isolation and confinement will cure her nervous depression. Nevertheless, this cure makes her weak; it transforms her into a woman gone mad.

She gives into the figments of her imagination and begins to metamorphose this thing she imagines behind the wallpaper as a hallucinogenic image of herself. This woman becomes a deadly combination: best friend and worst enemy. She views the woman as trapped, and, in order to free herself from this non-fulfilling life, she must free the woman. Elisa also receives an uninvited guest, a tinker who she perceives as the perfect emblem of freedom. His life is on the road, in the wild-outside the fence. She, like the narrator, feels a need, a desire, to help this outsider in order to liberate ones self.

Vivid pictures and visions of a life with no barriers, boundaries, or limitations, run free in the minds of both Elisa Allen and the narrator in The Yellow Wallpaper. These women begin to view objects as both symbols of entrapment and of license. Within the confinements of her prison, this once busy and bothersome pattern of the yellow wallpaper begins to straighten out. It becomes almost bar-like, and with the walls and the windows this soothing room turns into a reformatory from which she must abscond. Elisa must also break free, decomp from the boundary, the fence, that is enclosing her in the stationary, non-progressive life.

She sees hope, a way to expand, through her joy, her love, her talent crysanthemums. By sharing her love with others, she is actually leaving, going somewhere, helping someone, on the other side of the fence. Outside the windows, through the bars, the narrator finds a path, a channel of hope that she knows is her alliance with the world. She envies those able to follow it, find the end and depart onto the road of life. These women must elect whether they will linger on in misery or opt for the chance at bliss. When inner happiness is not obtained, life comes to a halt, and presents options.

The women in these stories opted to take different paths in the hopes of finding inner joy. The narrator wants out, she will stand for nothing less. By ripping down the wallpaper and abolishing the bars that once surrounded her, she feels autonomous. No one or nothing will obstruct the path of freedom, of independence, except for the stipulations of her own mind. In this quest she loses all that keeps her sane, she has transposed into a woman gone mad. Elisa Allen tries to achieve her desire to be free by extending outward in the hope of receiving outside acknowledgement.

The tinker is to transport some crysanthemums to a woman in town. Elisas hunger and strive for achievement is diminished when she witnesses her crysanthemums on the ground crushed and destroyed. She, unlike the narrator, settles for what is within her reach and concludes with a glass of wine at dinner. The woman in The Crysanthemums and The Yellow Wallpaper both show ambition and the drive to become more. Within their lives, barriers must be crossed in order for fulfillment to be achieved. Their husbands, the fence, and the wallpaper, are all constraints that must be depleted.

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