Edgar Allan Poe Vs. Charlotte Perkins Gilman Essay, Research Paper
Edgar Allan Poe and Charlotte Perkins Gilman were both successful in making the objects of their stories, “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Yellow Wallpaper,” form their own identities, and even points of reason, through their use of syntax, point of view, and personification.
The authors use major characters in the first person participant to narrate both stories, which supports the unreliable narrator. This enhances the story by giving the reader added insight into a subject that he or she is less likely to understand or relate to. Had the story had been told through any other point of view, the reader would not have gotten as clear of a picture as to exactly what is going on in the minds of each character; especially since craziness is not necessarily a quality that everyone can relate to. The unreliable narrator also adds and edge to the stories. Since the author had established, or should I say destroyed, the narrators’ credibility, it adds mystery and room for questions in the reader’s mind, a guessing game.
In Poe’s “Tell Tale Heart”, he addresses the audience directly. “You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me” (34). Poe also intensifies the narrator’s emotions by the use of first person. “Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers- of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph” (34-5). Near the story’s end, the narrator’s thought pattern begins to reflect his paranoia. “They heard! -They suspected! -They knew! -They were making a mockery of my horror! -this I thought, and this I think” (37).
Gilman’s narrator writes to herself, as in a dairy, of “dead paper” (470). With each entry, her thoughts grow more and more abstract, as she begins to believe more in her allege illness. At the beginning of the story, her thought pattern is still rational but somewhat disoriented. “I take phosphates or phosphites- whichever it is- and tonics, and air and exercise, and journeys, and am absolutely forbidden to ‘work’ until I am well again” (470). Again, the first person narration brings us, the reader, closer to the narrators’ images, and her delusional. “I have watched John, when he did not know I was looking, in come into the room suddenly on the most innocent excuses, and have caught him several times looking at the paper and Jannie too. I caught Jennie on it once” (477).
The narrator’s use similar syntax to bring the readers deeper into their thoughts. The choppy sentences and complex structures not only pattern the rhythm of their thoughts, but also their stream consciousness. The constant periods, commas, semi-colons and exclamation points show a complex thought pattern, while longer sentences reflect a more stable train of thought.
“Tell Tale Hearts” immediately introduces the characters scattered and neurotic thought process. “True! – Nervous- Very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why would you say I am mad?” (34). Poe’s syntax truly parallels his characters attitude. Along with syntax, the author uses parallelism to drill his character’s thoughts into the reader. “Oh God! what could I do? I phoned- I raved- I swore!” (37).
Where as Poe writes his entire story using frazzled syntax, Gilman uses it to show her characters progression of her illness. She begins, “it is very seldom that mere ordinary people, like John and myself, secure ancestral halls for the summer” (469). The narrator tone is calm and chatty. As the story progresses, the narrator begins to ‘tire out’, and her sentences become shorter and simpler as a result. “I pulled and she shook. I shook and she pulled, and before morning, we pulled off yards of that paper” (479).
Personification is defined as a figure of speech in which inanimate objects or abstractions are endowed with human qualities or are represented as possessing human form (http://www.dictionary.com). That is exactly what both Poe and Gilman use to bring the objects of their stories to life.
The narrator of “The Tell-Tale Heart” describes the eye around which the story revolves, as a “vulture,” and the “Evil Eye,” In reality, it is only a glass eye, “all a dull blue, with a hideous veil over it” (34-5). Throughout the story, the narrator makes it clear to the audience that he has nothing against the man himself, but only his eye.
“The Yellow Wallpaper” revolves around just that- yellow wallpaper. But, to the narrator, the paper takes on shapes, and eventually a life, of its own. “In the places where it isn’t faded and where the sun is just so- I can see a strange, provoking, formless sort of figure that seems to skulk about behind that silly and conspicuous front design” (473). Unlike Poe’s eye, Gilman uses the wallpaper as a symbol of her main character.
Although the two authors have very similar styles of writing and techniques to convey a unique sense of mental instability, their pieces have their differences, which include the comparison of violence to larthargia, which most likely comes from the authors personal writing background.