Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Personally when I learned that this week’s post involved comparing two short stories: Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark”, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”; a poem: “I Wandered as Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth; and a cultural event through one of the Loyola community’s clubs celebrating “traditional” Chinese New Year’s I thought to myself “well this should be interesting”.  The writings did prove to be interesting, but “traditional” must have lost something in translation.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Birthmark” and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” both follow short story format and are rather interesting reads.  I may have found the stories more interesting than most from by background as a psychology major, but I believe this insight allows me to understand on a deeper level what the authors where conveying with their writings.  Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark” follows Aylmer, a prominent scientist with an inflated view of self.  He has extensively studied geology through mines and volcanoes as well as a strong understanding of chemistry.  But with all this knowledge he loses his sense of natural beauty that manifests itself as an obsession in an imperfection, a “birthmark”, on his wife’s, Georgiana, cheek.  He goes to great lengths to control her and even vents in fume of an unknown chemical without her knowledge.  Georgiana reads his journal and it shows that all his experiments fail to meet expectations.  His final experiment simply “cannot fail”, it is a potion which Georgiana must drink.  The potion makes her sleep and Aylmer watches like a loving husband, and a scientist waiting to see results.  The potion removes the birthmark, but also kills Georgiana.  Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” follows the narrator, an upper middle class woman whom is suffering from postpartum depression and her attempted treatment in a summer home.  She starts to become delusional as she thinks she sees another woman “trapped” within the wallpaper.  By the end she becomes completely delusional and shows that she has no grasp of reality as she “sees” several more women and then tears the wallpaper down in an attempt to “free” the trapped women as well as herself, since she now believes binds her.  Both stories, when seen through a view of psychological insight, can help the reader understand the situation.  Aylmer may be seen as a narcissist as he experiments on his own wife and wishes to alter her just for his own peace to the point that he treats her a an object to be experimented upon. The unnamed narrator of “The Yellow Wallpaper” can be seen to be suffering with postpartum depression from what is revealed in the text.  Being locked in the room with no social contact, save her husband and his sister drives her to insanity. 
William Wordsworth’s “I Wandered as Lonely as a Cloud” has less melancholy tone as the poem tells of the speaker recounting his experience with nature.  He paints a vivid picture of the flowers along the river as unending as the stars in the sky.  Wordsworth continues to draw the reader into his memory in the third stanza and entice the reader to imagine such a seen with: “A poet could not help but be gay… In such a jocund company …What wealth the show to me had brought”.  This experience leaves such a mark upon Wordsworth that that instant of time becomes the sight that he returns to when “when on my couch I lie/ In vacant or in pensive mood”. 
Somewhere along the lines traditional seems to have taken a rather drastic change in meeting, at least in terms of how the Chinese New Year is celebrated in America.  I wasn’t sure what I was walking into when I bought the wristband from the box office, but I was most certainly not expecting what I found upon walking in.  I wasn’t expecting anything professionally done, but I didn’t know that traditional meant ordering the same food as “Iggies” on sternos with a table of Henna tattoos and “Kung Fu Panda” playing in the background.  Though the food was decent enough I personally didn’t feel “cultured” by the event as there was little to do other than sit and eat the food with plastic silverware and watch as an animated overweight panda futilely tried desperately to eat a dumpling, only to out-witted by I believe to be a master hamster.  I cannot mock a Dreamworks production, but it wasn’t what I was hoping for in a cultural event.  

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