The short stories “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Miller and “The Birthmark” by Nathanial Hawthorne and the poem “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth all describe different psychological states. In “The Yellow Wallpaper” a woman is plagued by her obsession with the wallpaper in her room. “The Birthmark” describes a scientist’s obsession with perfecting his wife and achieving immortality. The poem, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,” is very different from the two short stories because it describes joy.
“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman tells the story of a young woman being treated for a mental disorder by her husband, John, and her sister-in-law at a rental home in the country. According to the narrator, her husband, a physician, does not believe anything is truly wrong with her. She states, “You see, he does not believe I am sick! And what can one do? If a physician in high standing, and ones own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression-a slight hysterical tendency- what is one to do,”(Gilman 388). The speaker says her brother, also a physician, agrees with this claim. To combat her “temporary nervous depression,” the speaker takes various phosphates or phosphates, various prescriptions and gets plenty of rest. Despite claiming there is nothing wrong with her, there is ample evidence throughout the text that the narrator is suffering from a server mental illness. The narrator’s bedroom in the country home has yellow wallpaper. This yellow wallpaper will be the main focus of the narrator throughout the text. In the eyes of the narrator, the wallpaper is “repellent, almost revolting, a smoldering unclean yellow…”(Gilman 389). She wonders how it did not drive the previous occupants of the room mad. The narrator constantly brings up the wallpaper, she states how John laughs at her about it and describes its tattered, unkempt condition. Towards the end of the story the narrator makes it seem as if she is getting better and nearly ready to return home. One night the narrator determines that the wallpaper is moving and the source of the movement was either one or many women shaking it. After some time of observing the women “creeping” at night, the narrator took advantage of Jack’s absence by joining in a tearing the yellow wallpaper off the wall. The following night the speaker and her sister-in-law were to sleep down stairs but the narrator stayed in the room with her door locked and again went to work on the wallpaper. John pleads with the narrator to come out of the room but the narrator replies, “I’ve got out at last… in spite of you and Jane. And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back,”(Gilman 398). The ending clearly shows that the narrator was suffering from something considerably worse than a temporary nervous depression.
“The Birthmark” by Nathaniel Hawthorne revolves around a scientist named Aylmer and his obsession with a small birthmark on the face of his wife, Georgina. According to the text the small mark, which resembled a small rose-colored hand, was quite polarizing. By all accounts Georgiana was beautiful, to some observers the birthmark served to heighten her beauty, to others it was a flaw on what might otherwise be considered perfection. Aylmer considered the mark on his wife’s cheek a defect and as a man of science he began to devise a plan to remove it and create his idea of perfection. One night he approached his wife about the possibility of the removal and she was deeply hurt but eventually she agrees to the removal after hearing Aylmer yell in a dream, “‘it is in her heart now; we must have it out!’”(Hawthorne 469). It is clear that Georgiana worships her husband and the fact that she is willing to undergo this potentially dangerous experiment just to please his proves that. Aylmer and Georgiana move to Aylmer’s laboratory in order to complete the removal. Georgiana gets the opportunity to learn much about her husband during their time in the laboratory. He teaches her about alchemy, shows her his poison and potions. She takes the opportunity to read his scientific journals and despite the fact that they reveal mostly failures, it makes her worship him more. Eventually Aylmer gives Georgiana the mixture that will remove her birthmark and she falls asleep. During her sleep the mark fades away. Aylmer’s screams of joy wake her and he shows her that the mark is gone. To Aylmer, the birthmark symbolizes mortality and its removal would result in perfection but the ending of the story shows he is wrong. The story closes with Georgiana dying and as she dies saying, “… you have rejected the best the earth could offer,”(Hawthorne 477).
“I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth is a recollection of a pleasant memory of the speaker. The speaker describes a day spent among nature The tone of this poem differs vastly from those of the two short stories. While the two short stories are dark and describe physical and mental fixations, this poem is quite whimsical in comparison. The ending is where this poem separates itself the most from the short stories. “The Yellow Wallpaper” ends in the speaker’s complete mental breakdown, “The Birthmark” ends in the death of Georgiana but “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” ends with the speaker reflecting on the fact that this event would always be a pleasant memory in the back of his mind.