Previous knowledge of the novel Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 9 July 2017

Previous knowledge of the novel

From your reading of Chapters 1, 2 and 26 of “Jane Eyre”, as well as any previous knowledge of the novel you might have, write about the links you begin to see between that text and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”. “The Yellow Wallpaper” was written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in 1892 for a number of specific purposes, including the author’s desire to raise awareness of the condition post-partum depression, from which she suffered, and to illustrate her views on the patriarchal nature and the inequality of Victorian society, particularly with relation to marriage.

Perhaps most importantly, Gilman wanted to expose the flaws in the male treatments propositioned for post-partum depression and other similar conditions; treatments from which she herself ailed even more than from her ‘nervous disorder’ when waylaid in bed, much like the narrator of her novella – albeit to a less extreme end. By contrast, Charlotte Bronti?? ‘s “Jane Eyre” has no such definite intentions, but acts most prominently as a bildungsroman and a partial autobiography, which leads to a very different treatment of characters as constructs rather than as Gilman’s use of them as representations.

While Bronti?? ‘s characters in “Jane Eyre” cannot be labelled with much more precision than Mr. Rochester’s standing as a Byronic hero, the characters in “The Yellow Wallpaper” are clearly intended for various purposes. The most obvious examples are John, the narrator’s husband, who embodies the Victorian male and the Victorian physician, and the narrator herself, who is intended to represent all of womankind subjected to the aforementioned Victorian male doctor. A commonality between the two novels exists in their inclusion of characters exhibiting madness.

There can be drawn many similarities between the two differing presentations, including an obvious physical manifestation of insanity. In “The Yellow Wallpaper”, as the narrator falls into madness – and particularly at the end of the novel when she has succumbed to it entirely – Gilman depicts her ‘creeping by daylight’ about her room, ‘crawling’ on the floor, ’round and round and round’, after having the narrator herself earlier assert that ‘most women do not creep by daylight’, therefore proleptically implying something abnormal about herself.

In “Jane Eyre”, this same physicality is used by Bronti?? in her presentation of Bertha Mason Rochester, as she is first introduced to Jane and to the readers ‘on all fours… like some strange wild animal’. Bertha is said to have ‘snatched and growled’, and ‘laid her teeth to [Mr. Rochester’s] neck’, which is an animalistic image also shown by Gilman when she has her narrator say she ‘bit off a little piece’ of her bed.

Both authors are in this way very deliberate in creating the metaphor of their insane characters being animals; Bronti refers to Bertha through her narrator Jane as a ‘beast’, a ‘wild animal’ and a ‘clothed hyena’, and besides these more obvious physical links, there are also allusions to hair ‘wild as a mane’, ‘a fierce cry’, an instance in which the woman ‘bellowed’, and her ‘stature almost equalling her husband’, who is built athletically, so this comparison therefore reinforces Bronti?? ‘s presentation of Bertha as something of a behemoth – her name even bears a visual similarity to the words ‘beast’ or ‘bear’.

There are several other parallels discernable between Bronti?? ‘s Bertha and Gilman’s narrator, for example in “Jane Eyre” Bertha commits the mortal sin of suicide by jumping out of an upstairs window after burning down the house in her final act of freedom, while in “The Yellow Wallpaper”, Gilman’s narrator is far more trapped than the character of Bertha, so she can only express a desire to ‘jump out of the window… but the bars are too strong even to try’, and before that Gilman had had her narrator state:

‘I thought seriously of burning the house – to reach the smell’. Both identical actions are used by the two authors to illustrate their characters’ insanity and an implicit breaking down of social norms; and especially a desire for suicide that goes against the core of human nature in our intrinsic survival instinct, which was a deviation seen before in the presentation of the two women as animals rather than human beings.

Bertha is referred to by Bronti?? through Jane Eyre as an ‘it’, solidifying this idea of her insanity rendering her inhuman. However, the marked difference between the protagonist of “The Yellow Wallpaper” and one of the antagonists of “Jane Eyre” is indeed the fact that Bertha has the freedom to carry out her insane thoughts, while Gilman has created in her novella such an image of imprisonment that her own character fails to complete either undertaking.

This idea is crucial to Gilman’s message of women’s entrapment in a Victorian patriarchal society, and therefore contributes to the novella’s effectiveness. On the other hand, since “Jane Eyre” was not written with such a definite intention as “The Yellow Wallpaper”, the actions of Bertha are designed to contribute to the plot of the novel more than to convey a message about the treatment of women, the mentally insane or the handicapped, though the latter readings could also be taken.

A more obvious difference between the two novels is that it is the autodiegetic narrator we can assume to be called Jane of “The Yellow Wallpaper” that exhibits insanity, thereby directly demonstrating to the reader the lack of cohesion in her mind, while in “Jane Eyre” Bertha’s insanity is regarded by the readers through the eyes of Bronti?? ‘s eponymous narrator.

Additionally, while the reader experiences the breakdown of the narrator’s mind from sanity to its loss in the former text, in the latter the only experience given to the reader of Bertha is of her already mentally degraded, with no transformation shown, and little information given about her prior to the exhibition of her allegedly genetic insanity. Bronti?? emphasises the fact that the reader is not given the whole story of her character Bertha through the interesting manipulation of her narrator.

Despite the fact that Jane Eyre is an autodiegetic narrator, the same as that of “The Yellow Wallpaper”, in the scene in which she is presented with Bertha, and indeed in ensuing scenes featuring Mr. Rochester’s first wife, Jane Eyre becomes more of a homodiegetic narrator – simply conveying the events before her but clearly on the edges of a much deeper story and a more extensive narrative than she has the ability or knowledge to recount.

Free Previous knowledge of the novel Essay Sample

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  • University/College: University of California

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 9 July 2017

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