Descent into Madness in The Yellow Wallpaper and I Felt a Funeral in my Brain

February 15, 2021 by Essay Writer

Introduction

A theme of the descent into madness is developed both in Emily Dickenson’s “I Felt a Funeral in my Brain” and in Charlotte Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper. Each story gradually depicts progressing insanity of its main character; which is faster in “I Felt a Funeral in my Brain. In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the idea of how the lack of human interaction and change in environment can and will lead to a mental breakdown and the loss of yourself, as depicted when the woman in the wallpaper controlled the narrator’s physical and mental doings. “The Yellow Wallpaper” and “I Felt a Funeral in my Brain” are similar because they both depict a descent into madness.

The Yellow Wallpaper

In “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Gilman, the Narrator is suffering from stress and was given bed rest as treatment. Throughout the story, the main characters journal entries became more and more elusive and incomprehensible with ramblings about the yellow wallpaper that she hated so much. From the beginning, she was writing full paragraphs and expressing her emotions, especially when she said “A colonial mansion, a hereditary estate, I would say a haunted house, and reach the height of romantic felicity–but that would be asking too much of fate!” This statement is taken from the very beginning of the story, but later on she becomes insane as seen when she said “‘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!’ Now why should that man have fainted? But he did, and right across my path by the wall, so that I had to creep over him every time!”

I Felt a Funeral in my Brain

This descent into madness is also portrayed in “I Felt a Funeral in my Brain” by Emily Dickinson. A funeral marks the passage from one state to another (life to death), a parallel to the speaker’s passing from one stage to another (sanity to insanity). However, the poet is not observing the funeral but is feeling it. She is both observer of the funeral and participant, indicating that the Self is divided. By the end of the poem, the Self will have shattered into pieces or chaos. The mourners “treading” indicates a pressure that is pushing her down. The speaker has a momentary impression that reason ‘sense’ is escaping or being lost. The pressure of the treading is reasserted with the repetition, ‘beating, beating.’ This time her mind, the source of reasoning, goes ‘numb,’ a further deterioration in her condition. The last two lines of stanza four assess her condition; she sees herself as ‘wrecked, solitary.’ Her descent into irrationality separates her from other human beings, making her a member of ‘some strange race.’ Her alienation and inability to communicate are indicated by her being enveloped by silence. In the last stanza, Dicksinson uses the metaphor of standing on a plank or board over a precipice, to describe the speaker’s descent into irrationality. In other words, her hold on rationality was insecure, just as standing on a plan would feel insecure. She falls past ‘worlds,’ which may stand for her past; in any case, she is losing her connections to reality. Her descent is described as ‘plunges,’ suggesting the speed and force of her fall into psychological chaos, shown by the phrase ‘got through knowing’. The last word of the poem, ‘then–,’ does not finish or end her experience but leaves opens the door for the nightmare-horror of madness.

Conclusion

In conclusion, “The Yellow Wallpaper” and “I Felt a Funeral in my Brain” are similar because they both depict a descent into madness. The theme of the descent into madness is developed both in Emily Dickenson’s “I Felt a Funeral in my Brain” and in Charlotte Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper. Each story gradually depicts progressing insanity of its main character; which is faster in “I Felt a Funeral in my Brain. In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the idea of how the lack of human interaction and change in environment can and will lead to a mental breakdown and the loss of yourself, as depicted when the woman in the wallpaper controlled the narrator’s physical and mental doings.

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