Paper I

Submitted By soursop09
Words: 2292
Pages: 10

Jackson, Frost, Gilman, Plato: Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream? “Just as the eye was unable to turn from darkness to light without the whole body, so too the instrument of knowledge can only by the movement of the whole soul be turned from the world of becoming into that of being.” claims Plato, emulating Socrates in his “Allegory of the Cave” (Plato). A story in dialogue form that depicts men chained from birth into a fixed position, it calls into question whether we as humans see only what we imagine and envision in a structure of a virtual reality. Should one find himself free of this sciolism, “he will see him in his own proper place…and he will contemplate him as he is.” While he could see reality, the other men would insist “that up he went and down he came without his eyes” (Plato). It is with similar effects that we see the subject of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”, Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” and Robert Frost’s “The Fear” are in a distorted reality that purposely mirrors ideals in today’s world. Despite each story having a distinct scenario and impression, all are comprised with analogous elements of paranoia that thicken the potency of the central idea using offsetting structure, atypical diction, and a questionable situation. Partially facilitated by paranoia, we as readers are able to use our emotions to both introspectively and outwardly look at ourselves and our world and question whether we can perceive the world as it is ourselves.
In all three pieces, the structures of the literary work play a role in how the prose is read and therefore contributes to the paranoia overall. Using a diary style of writing, “The Yellow Wallpaper” brings the reader into a sense that he is connected with the narrator’s innermost feelings and secrets, and therefore the reader is able to act as an outside confidant and judge her sanity accordingly. As she agrees with John’s observation that she has “improved” and “seems to be flourishing in spite of [her] wall-paper,” the reader knows that even though she believes she’s “feeling ever so much better,” her mind is deteriorating quickly with time and an engorged obsession in the “developments” of the paper (Gilman, 470). As the story progresses, the writings become less focused on the house and outside life and more focused on the wallpaper and its actions as perceived by the narrator, and shows the descent into her own psyche. In the first entry, she enjoys the house, for it’s “the most beautiful place,” and goes on to describe multiple facets of the mansion (Gilman, 462). As she obsesses over the paper her writing loses these descriptions. This allows the reader to understand the increasing obsession with the paper as if the reader himself was going insane. Engrossed in the neurotic writings of a confined woman, the reader will be able to contrast the difference between the mere detail used to describe the wallpaper in the beginning (“It is a dull yet lurid orange in some places, a sickly sulphur tint in others”) to the alarming way she begins to humanize it as if it was a being rather than an object (“the paper looks to me as if it knew what a vicious influence it had!”) (Gilman, 463, 465). Allowing the reader to come along for the journey into insanity, this placement of more alarming thoughts towards the end of the piece adds to the overall mood of paranoia; this descent into madness is fundamentally disturbing because of how quickly she deteriorates. An active reader will see himself in the sensible woman of the beginning, see her quick decline, and wonder if it could ever happen to us. According to this story, it’s a terrifying ‘yes.’ With the short and snappy sentences, the structure of this story, “The Fear” creates a quicker, more unsettling feel. Lines such as, “I didn't see it. / Are you sure----/ Yes, I'm sure!" quicken the readers pace which in turn allows the reader to get an emotional reaction that