Essay, Research Paper: Yellow Wallpaper And Darling

Literature: Anton Chekhov

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In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s, “The Yellow Wallpaper”, and Anton
Chekhov’s, “The Darling”, we are introduced to main characters with lives
surrounded by control. In Gilman’s, “The Yellow Wallpaper”, the main
character, which remains nameless, is controlled by her husband, John. He tells
her what she is and is not allowed to do, where she is to live, and that is she
is not permitted to see her own child. In Chekhov’s, “The Darling”, the
main character, Olenka, allows her own opinions and thoughts to be those of her
loved ones. When John puts the narrator into the room, she writes in despite of
him telling her that she should not. At the end of her first passage, the
narrator tells us, “There comes John, and I must put this away – he hates to
have me write a word”. The narrator was told that writing and any other
intellectual activity would exhaust her. The only thing that exhausts her about
it is hiding it from them. The narrator tells us, “I did write for a while in
spite of them; but it does exhaust me a good deal – having to be so sly about
it, or else meet with heavy opposition”. Conrad Shumaker suggests that John
believes that if someone uses too much imagination then they will not be able to
figure out reality. “He fears that because of her imaginative
‘temperament’ she will create the fiction that she is mad and come to accept
it despite the evidence – color, weight, appetite – that she is well.
Imagination and art are subversive because they threaten to undermine his
materialistic universe” In Gilman’s “Why I Wrote the Yellow Wallpaper”,
Gilman tells us that when she was sent home from the rest cure, Dr. Mitchell
gave her “solemn advice to ‘live as domestic a life as far as possible,’
to ‘have but two hours intellectual life a day,’ and ‘never to touch pen,
brush, or pencil again’ as long” as she lived. The narrator cannot even be
around or raise her baby. John hired a nanny, Mary, to take care of him. This
even makes her more nervous. The narrator tells us, “It is fortunate Mary is
so good with the baby. Such a dear baby! And yet I cannot be with him, it makes
me so nervous”. In this short story, the narrator was forced to stay without
her baby. In the introduction Thomas L. Erskine and Connie L. Richards tell us,
Gilman was “very much like her father in important ways, for she
‘abandoned’ her daughter to her husband and like him, preferred to deal with
her emotions at a distance – in letters, books, or in her fiction”. From
this we see that Gilman actually had a choice on whether to be without her
child. In the story, the narrator was told not to have her child around because
of stress. When the narrator tells about the room, she says, “I don’t like
our room a bit. I wanted something downstairs that opened to the piazza and had
roses all over the window, such pretty old-fashioned chintz hangings! But John
would not hear of it”. The room has barred windows and “rings and things in
the walls”. The narrator hates the ugly yellow wallpaper, but when she wanted
John to change it, he told her “that I was letting it get the better of me,
and nothing was worse for a nervous patient than to give way to such fancies”.
Every time the narrator asked John for a different room, he threatens her with a
room in the basement. Personally, I believe that John is doing everything wrong
to help the narrator. Treating her like a child did not help her get well, it
was her own strength at the end of the story that made her well again. John told
the narrator not to write, see her child, and which room to live in. In
Chekhov’s, “The Darling”, Olenka’s opinions changed with and as often as
her husbands. When she was married to Kukin, the manager of a theatre, all of
her thoughts were of the theatre. Whatever “Kukin said about the theatre and
the actors she repeated.” She repeated these things as if she loved the
theatre her entire life. She never even spoke of the theatre until Kukin came
into her life. Only three months after Kukin dies, she meets Pustovalov, a
timber merchant, and marries him. She started talking about timber as if “she
had been in the timber trade for ages and ages, and that the most important and
necessary thing in life was timber.” She even “dreamed of perfect mountains
of planks and boards, and long strings of wagons, carting timber somewhere far
away.” Olenka never allowed for thoughts or opinions of her own. “Her
husband’s ideas were hers. If he thought the room was too hot, or that
business was slack, she thought the same.” She lived happily with him for six
years with all opinions surrounding around timber. After Pustovalov dies, she
only stays alone for six months. “It was evident that she could not live a
year without some attachment.” Olenka then marries a veterinary surgeon.
“She repeated the veterinary surgeon’s words, and was of the same opinion as
he about everything.” This would embarrass him that she would try to talk
about animals and things as if she knew about them. “I’ve asked you before
not to talk about what you don’t understand. When we veterinary surgeons are
talking among ourselves, please don’t put your word in. It’s really
annoying.” When he would tell her this she would ask, “But, Volodichka, what
am I to talk about.” Olenka had nothing in her life meaningful to herself that
was worth bring up in conversation. She would surround her life around her
husband and his whole life. “She wanted a love that would absorb her whole
being, her whole soul and reason – that would give her ideas and an object in
life, and would warm her old blood.” Olenka was alone shortly after marring
the veterinary surgeon, when he departed to Siberia with his regiment. Being
alone she “thought of nothing, wished for nothing.” Without a man to
structure her thoughts, she could not have any. It was as if Olenka never
learned how to think for herself. Her thoughts were always for someone beside
herself. When Olenka was alone “she had no opinions of any sort. She saw the
objects about her and understood what she saw, but could not form any opinion
about them, and did not know what to talk about.” Olenka had nothing to make
conversation and if she would make conversation, she could not give her opinion.
In conclusion, both women had a strong control factor in their life. In “The
Yellow Wallpaper”, the main character makes no decisions of her own. Her
husband, John, controls everything she does. In “The Darling”, the men
surrounding her life control all of Olenka’s opinions. The men do not mean for
it to be this way but that is just how Olenka is. She allows herself to not be
able to think on her own. These characters have similar personalities. They both
allow themselves to be controlled throughout their lives.
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