Unreliable Narrator in Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper Essay (Critical Writing)
Updated: Sep 30th, 2020
What Makes to Feel That This Is an Unreliable Narrator?
In the story, “the yellow wallpaper” the narrator exhibits poor narration skills, which make the story hard to follow or understand. The narrator is thus unreliable and the audience cannot fully rely on her narration. One of the things that make this narration unreliable is the level of inconsistency displayed in the story. The narrator begins well by describing a major event, which includes a summer vacation and a brief description of the scene (Gilman 5). She, however, diverts from the main topic and brings in other elements that make the story complex and confusing.
Her style of narration is haphazard and not easy to be followed. This can be confusing to readers since the narrator presents many facts related to the story randomly. Readers can therefore be lost and fail to know the direction of the flow of the story. Due to these levels of inconsistency, knowing the exact plot of the story is quite difficult for the reader may not find it easy to relate the various facts. This aspect makes it difficult for the audience to predict or have a clue about what is likely to transpire as the story progresses. As a result, the reader becomes passive (Chase and Plaine 13). In addition, the narration talks about a “yellow wallpaper,” yet the narrator takes long before making an introduction to the subject of the story, hence bringing an element of confusion on what the subject is in the story.
The narrator also seems to be controversial and shows mixed reactions to various situations presented in the story. With this style of narration, it is hard to control the mood of the audience. Furthermore, knowing whether the text makes any meaning to the audience is quite difficult since the narrative language used is quite complex and does not depict freely the events under discussion. The story lacks uniformity in that the various ideas presented do not closely relate to each other. For instance, the narrator talks about how the marvelous building would make their summer holiday fun and romantic. As the story progresses, she expresses her disappointments with the vacation place. At some point, she looks at her husband positively, but later on, she turns negative.
When Does the Reader Start to Question the Validity of the Narrator’s Point of View?
The reader starts to question the validity of the narrator’s point of view the moment she begins to present information that seems contradictory. For instance, she talks about going on vacation only to mention later on that she is a captive to her bed all through. The unfolding of events in this scene tends to raise many questions for instance, how would she go for a vacation yet she is chained to her bed due to illness? At the same time, it is quite absurd that her husband is a doctor, but cannot give her the right prescription for her illness.
Moreover, the validity of the narrator is questioned when she brings in various aspects of the story through affirmative and negative responses. The important issues arising from the narration do not come out vividly; rather, she has clustered all the events together and only brings them out randomly. The flow of events should be consistent and she must have a firm opinion regarding the prevailing issues. For instance, she begins the narration by informing the audience how pleasant it is for ordinary people like John and herself to get such beautiful apartments for summer. However, after the above words, she complains about how antique and lonely the building is. She then hurls a few complaints at her husband despite having praised him before. This non-uniformity of agreeing and denying simultaneously makes the story sound disorganized and not true or relevant to the reader.
How Does the Reading Experience Change/Become More Complex When the Reader Begins to View the Narrator as a Liar or as an Unreliable Source of Information?
Once the reader realizes that the narrator is a liar or presents a mixture of points, which are poorly coordinated, their attention begins to drift. In most cases, one would literally stop reading the passage and begin concentrating on other things (Chase and Plaine 22). Consequently, the urge to read more of the story disappears because any sign of deceit instantly kills the trust that the reader had developed from the beginning. It is therefore paramount that the narrator gives the story a proper and reasonable flow that will enable the reader to capture all the significant points and facts presented therein.
Lack of confidence in a story makes it develop complexity as one continues to read through the lines. Such complexities arise from improper use of grammar, poor word selection, and use of facts that are contrary to each other. For instance, stating how good and beautiful the environment is, and then criticizing the same. This attribute is a complete turn off and often makes readers not to complete the stories they begin to read.
Chase, Mary Ellen, and Frances Kelley Plaine. The art of narration, New York: F.S. Crofts & Co., 2009. Print.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The yellow wallpaper. Champaign, Ill.: Project Gutenberg, 1999. Print.
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