Understanding Literature 101.16
18 September 2013
Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark,” William Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,” and Dr. Davis’s Zen meditation class all show how differently each person views their surroundings and the way they adapt to it. Specifically, in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Gilman writes of Else and the inability for her to accept the yellow wallpaper on the wall. In “The Birthmark,” Hawthorne explains Aylmer’s failure to comply with Georgiana’s facial birthmark. In “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,” Wordsworth explains the happiness that daffodils bring to him. From the Zen meditation session, I had to adjust myself from being continuously active to sitting down and still for long periods of time. Overall, each person deals with his or her surroundings differently, in search for a positive outcome.
In Gilman’s short story, she teaches the necessity of learning to cope with your environment. Because Else is so influenced by this yellow wallpaper, she blows it out of proportion and is unwilling to let it be for what it is. At the end of the poem, she finally rips down the yellow wallpaper. The negativity that she observed from the yellow wallpaper is the reason she tears it down. Else is trying to tear the negative away from her life, the yellow wallpaper, in search for a new beginning. Gilman explains the negative perspective of the yellow wallpaper: “Then I peeled off all the paper… all those strangled heads and bulbous eyes and waddling fungus growths just shriek with derision” (Gilman, 397); she is yearning for a fresh slate.
In “The Birthmark,” Hawthorne shows that the quest for perfection is not what seems to be. It is fine to have imperfections. Coping with your surroundings, as they are, is just as important. Settling for what is, instead of searching for something more is not a bad thing. Aylmer’s search for his wife’s perfect beauty causes her death in the end. He speaks of her birthmark, “dearest Georgiana, you came so nearly perfect from the hand of Nature that [your birthmark] …shocks me, as being the visible mark of earthly imperfection” (Hawthorne 467). Aylmer is not able to adapt to Georgiana’s perfection. He is unable to find a positive outlook, which doesn’t end well.
Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,” shows the positive outlook that can be brought if you face your surroundings with an attitude of what you can gain from them. Wordsworth deals with his depression in searching the environment around him for a positive outlook. The center to Wordsworth’s happiness is the daffodils he is so fond of. When Wordsworth is feeling down his mind flees to a memory of daffodils and he is brought significant joy. When he is feeling depressed, or in a “vacant… mood,” “[daffodils] flash upon that inward eye/ Which is the bliss of solitude;/ And then my heart with pleasure fills,/ And dances with the daffodils” (Wordsworth 20-24).
Each person faces their surroundings in different ways, in search of adapting to it. I too had this experience when attending Dr. Davis’s Zen meditation class. At first, I was a little hesitant on how I would cope with the class since I am a very active and am continuously busy. I decided to approach this with an open mind and positive attitude, and am so glad I did. I adapted to the class and ended up enjoying the session.