31st January 2012
Event and Reading Analysis Part 2
Obsessions can ultimately lead many people to their inevitable demise. Thoughts within our head, either positive or negative, have an incredible impact on how we live our lives. In both The Birthmark, and The Yellow Wallpaper, the narrators fought over an obsession that they could not let go. In The Birthmark, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the strive for perfection became an obsessive need for the narrator to achieve, while in The Yellow Wallpaper, written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the literal yellow wallpaper featured in the narrator’s bedroom became a overwhelming force that stole her every thought. However, in the poem I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, by William Wordsworth, the idea of embracing thoughts of serenity and tranquility is the driving force behind the short but inspiring work.
The narrator Aylmer, a brilliant scientist who gives up working on his experiments to marry his beloved wife Georgiana, tells Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story, titled The Birthmark. In Aylmer’s eyes, his wife Georgiana’s face is perfect. So perfect, in fact, that he is “shocked” by the red hand-shaped birthmark she has upon her right cheek. In order to remove it, Aylmer has Georgina drink a potion that should remove it once and for all. When Georgiana wakes up, she looks herself in the mirror, then looks to Aylmer and tells him not to feel bad about rejecting “the best the Earth had to offer” and then dies. Aylmer’s foolish strive to perfect his wife serves as the theme for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story. Such perfection, as suggested throughout the story, can only be found in Heaven, not on Earth. Ironically enough, Aylmer’s “perfection potion” is the very thing that would serve as the demise of Georgiana. I believe this story serves as a lesson to resist the urge to always improve others but rather search for the good that already lies deep within.
The Yellow Wallpaper, written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, is told through the point of view of a woman with her husband admiring the vacation house they have chosen for the summer. This story, much like The Birthmark tell the story of an obsessed-driven narrator whose very obsession serves to be the tool of their own demise. The narrator suffers from a nervous depression and is forbidden from performing most strenuous activities. In order to relieve her mind, she begins writing down and describing the house she is staying in. Although her description of the house is mostly positive, the yellow wallpaper in the bathroom that she describes as “revolting” particularly disturbs her. As weeks pass, she continually hides her journal from her husband John, but continues to return to the yellow wallpaper as it has now become menacing to her, which worries John. The narrator begins having strange fantasies about the house and imagining people outside walking along the walkways. Her primary entertainment has become trying to figure out the pattern on the yellow wallpaper, soon enough deciphering it to resemble a woman “stooping down and creeping” behind the cage-like pattern. She has become obsessed with trying to “figure it out” and finally decides the wallpaper must be destroyed in order to free the trapped woman. Eventually, as insanity overwhelms her, she convinces herself that she was the woman trapped in the wallpaper.
William Wordsworth’s poem, I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud features the narrator wandering alone one day until he encounters a host of daffodils by the lake dancing all along the shore. After having a miraculous revelation, whenever the narrator feels vacant or alone, he brings his mind back to that scene and his “heart fills with pleasure, and dances with the daffodils”. Unlike the first two stories, this poem features a narrator who sees the beauty and wonder in the simplicity of the world. Instead of trying to change it and make it “perfect” like Aylmer, the narrator embraces the scenery as it is and is able to now find happiness whenever his heart feels vacant.
When comparing these three readings to my second meditation session I attended, there were immediate striking similarities as well as compelling differences. The Birthmark idealized the notion of obtaining perfection, much like in meditation when we seek for “perfection” of the mind, and our soul by cleansing it of all negativity. In The Yellow Wallpaper, an obsession with the narrator’s wallpaper is what drove her to madness. Meditation offers us the option of eliminating all overwhelming thoughts that obsess us throughout our lives, and rather replace them with positive thoughts as demonstrated in William Wordsworth’s poem, I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud. Meditation allows us to cleanse our minds and our souls of all negativity and rather fill them with thoughts of happiness, as demonstrated by the daffodils by the lake. These three works, as well as meditation, focus primarily on what goes on inside of our minds. Whether or not our thoughts serve to destroy us, or be at peace is up to how we perceive the world.