18 September 2013
Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark,” and William Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” all include a protagonist trying to change nature. In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the main protagonist is placed in a room on her own to sleep and rest for the summer months, the captivity drives her mad and to the point of insanity. In “The Birthmark,” a scientist convinces his wife that an unsightly birthmark must be removed. Becoming self-conscious she demands he do everything in his power to remove it. In “I Wandered Lovely as a Cloud”, the speaker does not completely understand the beauty of a field and lake setting. In all these works beauty is misunderstood and reality begins to unfold as they strive to perfect nature.
Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” a woman is cordoned off into an upper-level room in a older home being rented for the summer. The woman is of unsteady health and is being cared for by her husband and sister-in-law. Her ongoing description of the wallpaper throughout the short story gives insight into her state of mind. In the beginning she believe that the wallpaper is grotesque but as time moves along she finds it more and more appealing. Her being stuck in this room drives her insane. If her husband were to listen to her and not force these rash behaviors she may have been saved. Her husband saw flaw in her and decided he needed to remove her from society but in actuality it was society holding her together. She states “But I am here, no person touches this paper but Me-not alive” (Gilman 397).
Throughout the Hawthorne’s short story “The Birthmark” the same idea is present, the idea to alter nature to what we perceive to be beauty. The man’s necessity to change his wife to what he perceives is beauty ends up destroying her for the rest of the world. “No, dearest Georgiana, you came so nearly perfect from the hand of nature that this slightest possible defect, which we hesitate whether to term a defect of beauty, shocks me, as being the visible mark of earthly imperfection” (Hawthorne 467). The ultimate death of the woman shows that through the correction of nature only death may follow. In society today, altering Mother Nature still brings with it death and destruction.
In the poem “I Wandered Lonely as a Child” the speaker of the poem describes a setting in which they come across a lake with a meadow of daffodils adjacent to it. He does not take into the account of the shear beauty that he is seeing. Unable to see this natural setting in front of him the poem states, “I gazed-and gazed-but little thought What wealth the show to me had brought:” (Wordsworth 635). The field is there in all its beauty but he is unable to see it for what it really is.
This past Monday, I participated in the first of several times I will partake in Zen Meditation. Walking into the Fava Chapel only once before I knew the only the size of the room, nothing more of the practice. As I was told Zen meditation is not about learning anything from the daily quiet but to take away stress from oneself. It is meant to be a ritual in which you do not thin anything. Your mind is clear from your earthly struggles and in many ways try to find your inner peace. This inner peace can also be assimilated to finding one’s own beauty, trying not to change it but find it within you.
Nature can sometimes be hard to find and takes time to be able to see it. Gilman, Hawthorne, and Wordsworth all mistake true beauty and are unable to see nature for what is truly is, perfect. As learned through this process, the changing of nature cannot happen without sacrifice. Finding one’s inner beauty is just as if not more important than perfecting the outer one, as I learned this past Monday at Zen meditation.
Wordsworth, William. “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.” Poetry: An Introduction.
Michael Meyer. Boston/New York :Bedford/St. Martin’s. 2013. 635. Print
Rubenstein, Roberta, and Charles R. Larson, eds. Words of Fiction. Upper Saddle River,
Nj: Prentice Hall, 1993. Print.