“The Tell -Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe, was released in 1843. It is one of Poe’s shortest stories and provides a look into paranoia and mental deterioration. “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, was released in 1899. This story also provides a look into mental deterioration and had been misinterpreted when it was first published. The Poe and Gilman stories discussed in this essay will help readers comprehend the credibility of the narrators and the different symbolisms used to create informative yet suspenseful content.
In “The Tell -Tale Heart,” Poe delivers his story through an obviously mentally ill man, which is very similar to the character in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Gilman. the mental illnesses the narrators are suffering from make it difficult to differentiate between actual events or from those that occur through the wild imaginings of the narrator. Of the two stories, “The Tell -Tale Heart” is more open about the madness the narrator is experiencing right from the beginning because of his frequent denials. Hawkins 2 “How, then, am I mad? Hearken! nd observe how healthily–how calmly, I can tell you the whole story. ” (Poe, p37) In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Gilman gradually develops the obsession and the disorder in the narrator. The narrator describes the house they have moved into for the sumer in the beginning, “‘The most beautiful place”! “It is quite alone, standing well back from the road, quite 3 miles from the village. ” (Gilman, p326) As the narrator examines every inch of the house, she comes to the wallpaper and thats when the obsession begins. “I never saw a worse paper in my life.
“One of those sprawling, flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin. ” (Gilman, p326) It is here where she describes the wallpaper at length and begins her descent into madness. She weaves in and out of different issues always coming back to the wallpaper. “But these nervous troubles are dreadfully depressing. ” “I suppose John never was nervous in his life. He laughs at me so about this wallpaper! ” (Gilman, p327) The credibility of the narrators in both stories is very unreliable. In “The Tell Tale Heart”, the narrator is giving demonstrations of what he believes to be reasonable. Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. ” (Poe, p37) It makes the reader wonder if the character of the narrator is beliveable because he is able to recall the events, or is he truly mad. The narrator is telling his story as if it were a one on one session, which can make it believable and then we begin to separate the madness from the “actual” events that occurred. While Gilman has written her story as the form of journal entries, this also alters the credibility of the Hawkins 3 arrator because we only know what she wants us to know, resulting in leaving out important facts. “I did write for a while in spite of them; but is does exhaust me a good deal—having to be so sly abut it, or else meet with heavy opposition. ” (Gilman, p326) She is not honest about writing with her husband, and this proves that she is more than willing to tell her story her way.
The symbolisms greatly have an impact on the suspense in each story. Gilman uses wallpaper to symbolize some sort of text she must interpret and believes it affects her in some way directly. There are things in the wallpaper that nobody knows about but me, or ever will. ” (Gilman, p330) Half way through the story the sub-pattern of the wallpaper appears as a woman looking for a way out. “And it is like a woman stooping down and creeping about behind that pattern. ”(Gilman, p330) “And she is all the time trying to climb through. ” (Gilman, p331) The way the patterns and complexities of the wallpaper is described leads one to believe she is avoiding acknowledging her own realities and foreshadowing the course she will take.
Gilman’s story symbolizes women in marriages during the 1800‘s and the ineffective way mental illnesses were treated. “Of course, if you were in any danger, I could and would, but you really are better, dear, whether you can see it or not. I am a doctor, dear, and I know. ”(Gilman, p331) “So 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. ” “Personally, I disagree with their ideas. ” (Gilman, p326) The narrator discusses the way her husband (her doctor) is Hawkins 4 treating her illness in her journal but is really unable to voice her true feelings to him about what she thinks she should be doing. The symbolisms in Poe’s story is the “old man’s eye’ and the “beating heart”. The narrator in “The Tell Tale Heart” is trying to separate the old man from his “evil eye. ” This could symbolize a type of love and hate relationship the narrator is battling. “I loved the old man. He never wronged me. ” (Poe, p37) “One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture–a pale blue eye, with a film over it.
Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold,” (Poe, p37) The narrator reduces the old man to just his eye to eliminate any motives that could inspire the murder, never acknowledging that the murder will end this old man’s life that he loves. Eyes are the essence of human identity and cannot be separated from the body, and the narrators failure to realize this, further proves his insanity. After the narrator has committed the murder, he has a newly heightened sense of sound, “the beating heart”. He believes the beating heart sound is coming from this old man that he has just murdered and stuffed under the floorboards. My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears:—”It was a low dull quick sound”. (Poe, p39) “it is the beating of his hideous heart! ” (Poe, p40) Because the narrator is delusional he is unable to discern the difference in his own heart beating in his ears, representing his subconcious guilt and/or fear of the officers finding out the truth, or an epiphany for him to tell the truth. “Villains! ” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed! ”(Poe, p40) Hawkins 5 Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Edgar Allan Poe are accordingly using mentally ill characters in their stories.
Both are using unreliable narrators to tell the stories, and use metaphorical languages and symbolisms to create the suspenseful atmosphere. The stories definitely have their own indivduality, Poe tells his story over a course of days where Gilman tells hers over a period of months. In any event, both stories captivate the reader from the beginning to end, whether it be from the unreliability of the narrators or what the stories symbolize. Gilman and Poe have truely mastered the art of creating seemingly unrealistic events in to an overall plausible story.