ENG232 American Literature II

ENG232 American Literature II

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ENG232 American Literature II

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ENG232 American Literature II

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Course Code: ENG232
University: Durham Technical Community College

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Country: United States

1. To introduce representative works of American literature within their historical and cultural contexts.2. To develop close reading, writing, and critical thinking skills through the study of literature, and to demonstrate these skills through a variety of assignments such as essays, test discussion questions, student presentations, journals/reflections, analytical responses,or other written assignments.3. To stimulate thought and initiate discussion about important themes and issues that connect these works in an ongoing dialogue, enabling the student to appreciate the power of language to shape thought and represent the world.4. To interpret and enjoy not only those literary works discussed in class, but to foster lifelong learning and cultural engagement.

For the European adventurers who exploreed the America of the sixteenth, seventieth and eighteenth century had no real culture. The native Americans could not write and without any legal principles. It was through the traditional boarding schools that the Native American first experienced a letter (Lopenzina 18). Native children enrolled in those schools were forced to abandon their traditions and language. The aim of the paper is to representative works of American literature from the Colonial period and its various genres. Identity and Transformations were of the genres that add to our understanding of American literature and the issues that represented the era. The author and story picked for discussion are “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.The Yellow Wallpaper
“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a short story was published in 1892. It is based on the personal experiences of the author. In her real life, Gilman suffered a nervous breakdown, and the character in the story of “The Yellow Wallpaper” portrays her experiences as she was forced to rest and live a protected life. She was not allowed any activity and even her favorites like to paint or write as her husband and family through that it was not a good idea as she must rest completely. Gradually, the narrator becomes obsessed by the Yellow Wallpaper in her room and seeks her freedom within the patterns of the wallpaper. She feels that she can get free by peeling it down. The story reflects up the identity and transformations in the role of women in the society of the 19th century America when the husbands controlled the women and the women were restricted by male influences. The story is about how a husband treats the psychological difficulties of his wife and believes that compete rest and isolation are the therapeutic treatment for her.
Rigid gendered roles and rules of the 19th century America 
Gilman is best known for the short story” The Yellow Wallpaper.” The story enlightens the readers about the social conditions of those times as well as gender relationships and feminism during the 19th-century America (Marland). As the story is based on Gilman’s own health crisis, it can be said to be semi-autobiographical in nature. This is perhaps that adds more credibility to the message behind the story. The compulsive writer did earn the reputation of an advocate of women’s rights worldwide throughout her career. Gilman’s life story itself is a paradigm of feminine anger, as she abandoned marriage and motherhood due to her ailments. She renounced the nineteenth-century housewifery and motherhood and stayed true to her world of feminism and social commitment (Johnson 530). The short story depicts the challenges of being a woman during the nineteenth century (Marland). Any woman who became more literate or challenged female dress codes or tried to live creative lives was seen to be breaking female roles and conventions.
The Yellow Wallpaper, although printed in 1892 remained ignored for more than five decades. The fact itself shows the unjust treatment female authors got by the literary critics in North America (Godayol 81). The revolutionary literatures on the situation of women were often ignored in the male-dominated system. When one of the leading physicians of her time, S. Weir Mitchell diagnosed Charlotte Perkins Gilman of” nervous prostration,” he prescribed the popular and necessary recuperative regimen for her and which was a rest cure treatment. Thus, Gilman was kept away under strict isolation for a month at his Philadelphia Sanatorium. She was forbidden any creative activity like writing or painting (Bak 39). Gilman dramatizes her experience of the treatment under her physician in “The Yellow Wallpaper” and how the isolation only deteriorates the condition of the patient. Gilman’s deep depression and with no freedom to write during her time in the sanatorium made her almost mad. Her married situations and position made her aware of the submissive role of women in society and marriage. This is why one finds a superb dramatic precision in the story of the woman’s mental breakdown in The Yellow Wallpaper as stated by Godayol (81). All women during the 19th century were seen as weak and vulnerable to ill health and mental collapse by physicians. Those women with creative and aspiring streaks were considered even more at risk. Such women were seen as pacing themselves at dangers of nervous collapse if they tried to step into the roles and realms set for the male gender. Gilman writes of a “dragging weariness … absolute incapacity. Absolute misery” following the birth of her daughter (Marland). The doctors were sure that the form of mental illness was activated by the mental and physical strain of giving birth.
Societal confines for women
Looked upon as a feminist masterpiece, the author penned the story when men exercised full authority over the women in their family and lives. As stated by Bak (40), the story has become a feminist text that draws attention to the men in the narrator’s life who are responsible for her subsequent mental demise. The women were confined within the four walls of their home. Gilman draws attention to the lives of women in the society of her times and how they led a captivated life.  Thus, it is no surprise that these women did not experience any creative growth or developed intellectualism. Her story depicts the space and confinement of the women within the male-dominated confines in that era and thus touches the issues of identity and transformations for women under male dominance.
The “Yellow Wallpaper” is Gilman’s most famous as well as harrowing story of how the home or its four walls can become the most saturated place for a woman under the male authority. The rules and regulations are set as the male known the best (Bergman 3). The prison-like nursery assaults the creative freedom of the narrator and restricts her desire for expression and freedom. She goes through emotional and psychological violence with her room lined with the yellow wallpaper. Gilman leaves little doubt in the mind of the readers about the destructive powers of male dominance of her times. Gilman demonstrates powerfully through her writing the internalization of the restrictions that were forced upon her by Dr. S. Weir Mitchell in her life and on the character by John in “The Yellow Wallpaper.”   The Yellow Wallpaper offers a disturbing range of cultural implication and the challenges faced by the narrator (Crewe 286). The husband’s tranquilizing prescriptions and her solitary confinement within a room only encourage a paranoid self-scrutiny within the narrator. “There is a recurrent spot where the pattern lolls like a broken neck and two bulbous eyes stare at you upside down. . .. those absurd, unblinking eyes are everywhere” (Gilman 649).
Escaping the male dominance
Gilman’s protagonist in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” identifies with the raging “madness” that she finds within the ornamental style and intricate patterns of the wallpaper (Johnson 523). The narrative focuses on the psychic chaos within a woman and her quest for imaginative freedom. She is suppressed between the world of masculine order and domestic routine. The story is a kind of diary that could be of any woman and her turbulent inward journey as asserted by Johnson (523) The narrator shows a gradual identification with her own suppressed rage as the story progresses. She is frantically to get free and expresses her desperate rage as she destroys the wallpaper (Johnson 525). She feels as if she is trapped in the paper and finds it hideous, and torturing.
“It slaps you in the face, knocks you down, and tramples upon you. It is like a bad dream.” (Gilman 653).
The position of male dominance is quickly established through her husband, John. He stands for the male prototype and a figure of dominance in every sphere, whether it is social, intellectual, physical or domestic (Johnson 523). America of that era seems to be “full of Johns.” The narrator’s brother is a physician, and Weir Mitchell is the leading doctor of a powerful medical establishment (Davison 48).
“John is practical in the extreme. He has no patience with faith, an intense horror of superstition, and he scoffs openly at any talk of things not to be felt and seen and put down in figures.” (Gilman 647).
John wants to replace the wallpaper, and even his wife finds it so repulsive. However, the husband changes his mind as he associates the nervous illness of his wife with her imaginations about the wallpaper.
“He laughs at me so about this wallpaper! At first he meant to repaper the room, but afterward, he said that I was letting it get the better of me, and that nothing was worse for a nervous patient than to give way to such fancies”. (Gilman 649).  
John fails to recognize the psychic chaos and artistic degeneration within her wife and what she fears the most. He underrates the imaginative force that he is trying to repress by placing his distraught wife in a nursery. Within the confines, his wife lets loose her free play of imagination that leads to a terrible end for both (Johnson 524). 
Descent into insanity
The straightforward short story is about the woman who is forced to take rest in an isolated house and forbidden to engage in any intellectual work. The room grilled at the window and her bed is fastened to the floor. The floor is scratched while the walls are covered with a torn and faded wallpaper. The female madness towards the end of the story can be seen as a cautious act of rebellion (Rich 177). The narrator’s descent into senselessness suggests that she revolts against the captivity and treatment of confinement forced upon her. One can feel the Gothic elements in “The Yellow Wallpaper” where the distraught heroine is kept a prisoner in a forbidding mansion under a powerful and repressive male (Davison 46).
The narrator spends most of her days lying in her bed, staging at the flamboyant patterns of the room’s wallpaper. She finds the color and the patterns repellant. As she watches the wallpaper increasingly, she starts to take on a life of its own and thus settling in a nervous exhaustion.
“The color is repellant, almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight.” (Gilman 649).
As the wallpaper increasingly dwells on the mind of the narrator, she identifies with it and seeks her escape from the wallpaper. The wallpaper exudes a vicious influence on the narrator’s mind. She imagines many women and sometimes one, in its dim shapes who creep behind the patterns.  Towards the end of the story, the narrator locks the door of her room and tears away the wallpaper. Her act shows her desire to escape. The narrator’s detailed speculations about the room and its history are indeed disturbing. She speculates that the room was perhaps a nursery or a playroom and gymnasium (Davison 58).  
It is indeed disturbing to see that the narrator imagines the dull room to be a nursery or playroom for children.
“I suppose when this was used as a playroom they had to take the nursery things out, and no wonder!” (Gilman 650).  
She imagines those “rings and things in the walls” of the bedroom. It could well be a room in an mental hospital that is abandoned (Davison 58).  The barred windows were perhaps meant to prevent inmates from jumping out. The walls and the floors were perhaps scratched and gnawed by other prisoners. The narrator becomes a victim of her paranoid conviction that there is a conspiracy going on between her husband and his sister. Jennie is the symbol of the perfect woman and domestic ideal in the story (Davison 60).  
“She is a perfect and enthusiastic housekeeper, and hopes for no better profession.” (Gilman 650).  
The complete self-control by the husband and the suppression by the feminine ideals through the sister further suffocate the narrator. The narrator’s vision of patriarchy is reflected in the horrific senseless and crawling in the short story (Davison 66).  
“I always lock the door when I creep by daylight. I can’t do it at night, for I know John would suspect something at once.” (Gilman 650).  Towards the end, when John finds his wife tearing off the wallpaper in her crazy moments, he is not able to bear the sight and faints. The narrator wonders why her husband has fainted as she creeps over him
” I’ve got out at last,” said I, ” in spite of you and Jane? “And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back! ” (Gilman 656).  
Those words show that the narrator has achieved her freedom, but she along with her husband have paid a heavy price for her freedom.
Every member of the society, male or female is entitled to freedom and self-expression. The women, still suppressed lot, were not slowed to make connections outside their home during the 19th century. The storyline of Yellow Wallpaper reflects the controlled lives of the women in the patriarchal society where the man made the decisions for them. They limited women to find their satisfaction in marriage and domestic lives and confined them to the four walls of their home. “The Yellow Wallpaper” can be seen as a mirror to the society and comes out as a warning for the society as to why it is essential for every member to enjoy their freedom and complete growth. Gilman’s short story warns the society about setting rigid rules for the genders in the male-dominated societies. Marriage and life both are at a disadvantage when both husband and the wife get trapped in their assigned roles.
Works Cited
Bak, John S. “Escaping the Jaundiced Eye: Foucauldian Panopticism in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper.'” Studies in Short Fiction, no. 1, 1994, p. 39.
Bergman, Jill. “Charlotte Perkins Gilman and a Woman’s Place in America”. Tuscaloosa?: The University of Alabama Press, vol. 1, no. 1, 2017, pp. 1-240.
Crewe, Jonathan. “Queering The Yellow Wallpaper? Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the Politics of Form.” Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, no. 2, 1995, p. 273.
Davison, Carol Margaret. “Haunted House/Haunted Heroine: Female Gothic Closets in ‘The Yellow Wallpaper.'” Women’s Studies, vol. 33, no. 1, Jan. 2004, pp. 47–75.
Godayol, Pilar. “Three Feminist Classics in Catalan, Galician and Spanish: Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Virginia Woolf and Betty Friedan.” Women’s Studies International Forum, vol. 42, Jan. 2014, pp. 77–86.  
Gilman, Cltarlotte Perkins. ” The Yellow Wallpaper.”  nlm.nih.gov, vol. 1, no. 1, 1892, pp. 647-656.
Johnson, Greg. “Gilman’s Gothic Allegory: Rage and Redemption in ‘The Yellow Wallpaper.'” Studies in Short Fiction, vol. 26, no. 4, 1989, p. 521.
Lopenzina, Drew.” Red Ink: Native Americans Picking up the Pen in the Colonial Period.” State University of New York Press, vol. 1, no. 1, 2012, pp. 1-412.
Marland, Hilary. “The Yellow Wallpaper: a 19th-century short story of nervous exhaustion and the perils of women’s ‘rest cures’.” The conversation, 27 Feb. 2018, theconversation.com/the-yellow-wallpaper-a-19th-century-short-story-of-nervous-exhaustion-and-the-perils-of-womens-rest-cures-92302. Accessed 11 Nov. 2018
Rich, Charlotte. “‘The Yellow-Wallpaper’ by Charlotte Perkins Gilman: A Dual Text Critical Edition.” American Literary Realism, no. 2, 2010, p. 176-178.

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