31 January 2013
In the works “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth and “The Birthmark” by Nathaniel Hawthorne all theme in the idea that isolation and obsession can evoke different emotions from different people. While I was meditating on the idea of isolation I too was isolated from the world for a short time. In Gilman’s short story the main character is left alone in a room for weeks and goes crazy and in Hawthorne’s story the character isolates himself which allows his obsession to fester. Lastly, Wordsworth poem has a better outcome for the speaker because he chooses to isolate himself in nature and this makes him pensive and reflective. A person’s mental health can either grow or diminish based on their reaction to isolation.
The narrator of “The Yellow Wallpaper” is driven to her breaking point from isolation physically and mentally. Her husband puts her in a small room with one window and ugly yellow wallpaper; she begins to hallucinate women inside in between the wall and the wallpaper. “There are things in that paper which nobody knows but me, or ever will. Behind that outside pattern the dim shapes get clearer every day. It is always the same shape, only very numerous. And it is like a woman stooping down and creeping about behind that pattern” (Gilman, 393). This quote shows how the narrator’s isolation pushes her deeper and deeper into the delusion she is creating. Just like herself, the woman in the wallpaper is trapped against her own will wishing to be free. While the narrator looses her sanity the woman in the wall gains her freedom. During meditation there is a sense of clarity due to becoming lost in my own thoughts (without losing sanity of course).
Alymer, in “The Birthmark” begins with good intensions but his obsession separates him from everyone else in the story. Alymer’s work collides with his personal life and without separation of the two worlds he becomes consumed with both. He works on a medication to remove his wife’s much coveted birthmark. He wants to complete her near perfection but he begins to believe that the birthmark affects not only her face but also her soul. “With her whole spirit she prayed that, for a single moment, she might satisfy his highest and deepest conception” (Hawthorne, 375). Georgiana, the wife, simply aims to please her husband and hopes that she can make him happy so they can move on with their life together. He had become so involved in his work to help his personal life that both suffer. Fixation on a single thing for too long can influence every aspect of life; during meditation a certain amount of time is given to dwell and then one has to learn to move on.
Finally, Wordsworth’s speaker in “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” had a better experience with isolation. Like a cloud the speaker was able to enter nature and allow isolation to give him time to think through his life. Compared to lying on his couch at home, nature gave him change of both scenery and the way he views his life. “Which is the bliss of solitude;/ And then my heart with pleasure fills, / And dances with the daffodils”(Wordsworth, lines 22-25). Being able to embrace nature without any sort of distraction lets him return to that place when he is not happy. I, myself, am slowly learning to return to peaceful place that I reach during meditation, when I become stressed during life.
During meditation we are each isolated, allowed to focus on whatever we need, allowing enough time to work through important things that we may not always give ourselves to. Finding peace and comfort in my own thoughts is reassuring, making me a stronger more independent person. Unlike Gilman and Hawthorne’s characters, and much more like Wordworth’s speaker, isolation is a mental health inspiration instead of inhibition.