September 19th, 2013
The lessons learnt from reading the short stories by Charlotte Gilman and Nathaniel Hawthorne, as well as a poem by William Wordsworth; include the importance of having freedom, imperfections, and joyous memories. In “The Yellow Wallpaper” Gilman tells the story of a young woman who, when confined to a room for months, loses her freedom as well as her mind. Similarly the woman from “The Birthmark” when told to remove the unique marking for her cheek also removes any sense of independence she had. Lastly, Wordsworth talks about one of his fondest memories of a field of daffodils in “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” and how he will never forget that day. We as people need to learn what it means to be free, embrace who we are, and make everyday a lasting memory.
In “The Yellow Wallpaper” the narrator, suffering from depression, takes a month long getaway with her husband John. Right from the beginning she complains about the color of the yellow wallpaper in her room being “repellent” and “revolting” but she is forced to rest all day in this bedroom. Her husband, a doctor, believes this will heal her by limiting her activity, but by stripping away her freedoms he is only worsening the situation. Lying on her “immovable bed” which is nailed to the floor she has nothing to do all day but stare at this horrid wallpaper, and just like that bed she too is stuck in one place. As I prepare for my service experience to start next week, I feel my main goal is to free myself. Not freedom of the body necessarily, but of my preconceived notions, to be able to go out and see a new side of our community here in Baltimore. We as students here have no idea how our neighbors a few streets away live and that’s something that should change. Hopefully we can free ourselves from preconceived notions of what York Road is like and do some good in the process. If not we become trapped with our own preset ideas, just as the narrator was stuck inside her own mind and lead to believe she was trapped inside the wallpaper she hated so much.
Next, in “The Birthmark” we see a woman who enjoys an imperfection on her skin, her husband however urges her to remove it. In the end, he removes the mark for her using a potion, but in the process she dies as the mark fades from her skin. To me this a symbol of how the things that make us “imperfect” are also those that make us unique, and if we lose those we lose ourselves. We are all different but that does not make one of us imperfect and the other perfect. Just because the children at Tunbridge live in a less affluent area than myself, does not make them any less important. We need to embrace and learn from how other live, while teaching them what we know. I hope to learn just as much from the children and they will from me. No one can be perfect, and just as in the short story; if we think we are perfect we are no longer able to exist.
Finally William Wordsworth writes a short, yet impactful poem about what seems to be the happiest moment of his life. Every time he lies on his couch to remember the moment when he saw the field of daffodils, his “heart with pleasure fills.” These are the sorts of moments that make life worth living, the ones we can never forget. I’ve been lucky enough to already have such an experience volunteering for a weekend getaway with our local Middle School. The time I spent there with the kids, teachers, and counselors was some of the best. I’m anticipating this next service experience to be just as rewarding, but even more so I hope all those who volunteer at this school every week are able to provide the kids with and equally enjoyable memory as Wordsworth’s. All of these readings teach valuable lessons that we can apply to our own lives, and we should learn from them.