Meditation: The Path to Liberation
In works by Hawthorne, Gilman, and Wordsworth, liberation and self-realization are prevalent. “The Birthmark” by Nathaniel Hawthorne shows Georgiana’s liberation through her death. In “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, however, the narrator’s liberation is brought on by the mental breakdown she has after realizing that she is similar to the barred woman she sees in her wallpaper. Lastly, in “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth, the speaker becomes freed from his feelings of depression as he finds solace in the nature around him. Much like in the pieces of literature by Hawthorne, Gilman, and Wordsworth, feelings of liberation can be experienced through Zen meditation.
In “The Birthmark” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Georgiana is demeaned by her husband, Aylmer, who is repulsed by the birthmark on Georgiana’s face, and makes sure that she knows how ugly he thinks it makes her. Aylmer has a sort of obsession with his wife’s only flaw, which causes him to be unable to appreciate his wife’s true beauty. Georgiana becomes entrapped by the criticism her husband is constantly throwing her way, and she eventually begins to believe that she is as ugly as her husband says, just because of her mark. Georgiana begins to hate her birthmark just as much as Aylmer, so she allows him to remove it. However, by removing her birthmark, Georgiana dies. Her death is viewed as liberation, as she becomes freed from the criticisms of her husband, as well as the criticisms she began to inflict upon herself. The aspect of liberation in “The Birthmark” is related to meditation, because meditation allows people to reflect upon themselves and become fully aware of themselves. This self awareness then leads to a liberation from inner demons, much like Georgiana’s inner demon – her birthmark. Although Georgiana is dead, she can finally feel peace, a feeling that she was not able to enjoy as a result of her husband. Zen meditation allows people to feel that peace because, for a certain period of time, the mind is clear from all thoughts, especially the negative and haunting ones.
“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Gilman is similar to meditation in that the two both depict the slow process of becoming freed from the mind. This story is in the form of multiple diary entries, by which the writer is slowly realizing who she is and the extent of her entrapment not just by her husband, but also by herself. The narrator experiences incredible joy once she is freed from herself, as she writes, “It is so pleasant to be out in this great room and creep around as I please” (398). The narrator greatly enjoys being able to live outside of her mind. The feeling that the narrator experiences is similar to the feeling of properly meditating, as meditation involves clearing the mind and being able to enjoy a thought-free mind for extended periods of time. Furthermore, Zen meditation creates a sense of openness with one’s self, allowing people to be more accepting of themselves, much like the narrator of “The Yellow Wallpaper”.
Similarly, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” describes a man that feels liberated from his depression as he grows closer to nature. The speaker describes his depression as wandering “lonely as a cloud”, yet when he looks at the beauty of the nature around him, he gets freed from his feelings of loneliness. Wordsworth writes, “when on my couch I lie/in vacant or pensive mood/…my heart with pleasure fills/and dances with the daffodils”. Through this passage it is clear that the speaker feels a sense of liberation when he thinks of the beauty around him, much like the effect meditation has, as meditation draws one closer to nature. Meditation causes people to awaken their senses and to take notice of the all-encompassing natural beauty of the earth.
Zen meditation is closely tied with the works by Hawthorne, Gilman and Wordsworth, as they are all touch upon feelings of freedom. Hawthorne shows how truly haunting inner and outer demons can be, and he also shows the liberation that can be received from death in cases like Georgiana’s. Gilman provides readers with the liberating feeling of escaping from the entrapment of one’s own mind. Lastly, Wordsworth depicts how the beauty of the earth can help set one free from the inner torment of one’s mind. These pieces of literature are much like meditation, as they describe the many different ways of feeling liberated after a mediation session.