March 6th, 2015
The Similarities and Differences of the Secondary Characters John (“The Yellow Wallpaper”) and M. Loisel (“The Necklace”) and Their Negative Impact on the Protagonists
Secondary characters can negatively affect the protagonist and may be the reason for their downfall. Specifically, their behavior and established roles in their relationship may cause the destruction of the main character over the course of the story. “The Yellow Wallpaper”, by Charlotte Gilman, is the story of a woman who is told by her husband, John, to stay in the room until she gets better. The main character slowly descends into madness, fixating on tearing off the yellow wallpaper and freeing a woman trapped inside. In comparison, “The Necklace”, by Guy de Maupassant, is the tale of a woman who strongly believes she belongs in a higher class and forces her husband, M. Loisel, to give her money to buy a new dress for a large gala. At the event, Mathilde loses a borrowed necklace. Her family must descend into debt and spend the following 10 years poorer than before to pay for a replacement necklace, all while Mathilde’s character crumbles over time. Although the two story lines are very different from one another, both share the analogous quality of the protagonist’s husband driving to the undoing of his wife. In contrast, John holds the control in the marriage, speaking his own mind whereas M. Loisel is manipulated and retains his opinions to himself. Both characters similarly try to help their wives in best way they think possible and lead to the collapse of that character.
The husbands fall into opposite roles for the control of power in their relationship, however both are found to advance the downfall of their wives. John upholds the position of the manipulator, whereas Mr. Loisel portrays himself as manipulated. The controller of the relationship in “The Yellow Wallpaper” refuses to give his wife freedom and does not permit her to carry out certain activities. Jane wishes to go and make a visit to Cousin Henry and Julia, but John rejects her desires. Despite her pleas, Jane quotes that John “says he would as soon put fireworks in my pillow-case as to let me have those stimulating people about now” (Gilman 649). His wife feels “it is so discouraging not to have any advice and companionship” (Gilman 649), and he does not realize that it is slowly driving Jane to madness. By keeping his wife isolated in the house with only himself, their child, and his sister, John is pushing his wife to insanity from the lack of comfort from familiar faces. With John always away at work, his wife stays alone in her room all day with nothing but her thoughts. John, in another act of manipulation, does not approve of Jane’s writing and marks an imprint in her mind. This causes her to suffer from a guilty conscious when she acts upon her desires. The act of writing “exhaust[s] [Jane] a good deal – having to be so sly about it, or else meet with heavy opposition” (Gilman 648). John therefore ruins his wife’s distraction and pastime, constraining her creativity and voice. By taking away Jane’s ability to express herself freely in writing and in speech with her loved ones, John, as a secondary character, is helping the destruction of the protagonist by pushing her closer to a state of delirium. On the opposite end of the scale, having no control over the main character can also be ineffective in attempt to prevent her from her downfall. M. Loisel knows Mathilde is deeply unhappy with her life and he therefore goes to any extent to please his wife. He is manipulated into giving her everything that he can. Firstly, he obtains a ticket to the gala for Mathilde but states, “I had awful trouble to get it. Every one wants to go; it is very select, and they are not giving many invitations to clerks” (Maupassant 2). When Mathilde exclaims that she cannot attend the event without a proper dress, she begins to cry. M. Loisel,