The two stories The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Gilman and the Bloodline by Ernest Gains have their themes revolving around a range of issues. The issues pointed out in these literary works focus on the affairs that affect individuals in their daily lives, in the past, in the present, and in the future. One of the themes in the The Yellow Wallpapers and Bloodline is the Desperate Housewives, which is about suppression and escape of these women. The theme of Desperate Housewives is often revealed through mysterious and terrible secrets such as murder which is usually reflected throughout the storyline. In the two stories, The Yellow Wallpapers and the Bloodline which uses narrative voices takes the reader through the struggles women go through in their daily lives, the theme of desperate housewives is vividly depicted in every aspect.
In The Yellow Wallpapers the reader is given an opportunity to explore the mind of a woman who is about to go mad. The author takes the reader through the thoughts as well as the feelings of the narrator who is slowly consumed by what is going on through her head which eventually drives her mad through her obsession with the yellow wallpaper in the walls of her bedroom. On the other hand, in the Bloodline by Ernest, disputes are evident in almost every story. A Long Day in November, which is the first story in the book, chronicles a dispute between Amy and the husband, Eddie. However, as opposed to The Yellow Wallpapers in which the narration is done by the troubled woman, the narration in the Bloodline is done by the six-year-old Sonny, a son to Eddie and Amy. The toddler notes that the source of the problems between his parents is his fathers car which as per the mother is preventing the father from fulfilling his duties as a father and a husband. In this short story, Amy, the wife to Eddie, is presented to be desperately seeking the attention of the husband. In the process, she resolves that the husband's car is the stumbling block to what she seeks, which is commitment and responsibility as a husband and father to his family.
The two stories, The Yellow Wallpapers, and the short stories from the Bloodline, presents the struggle through which women go through in their marriages. The woman in The Yellow Wallpapers who lives in a rented house with her husband is going through a lot. These thoughts are flowing through her mind making her go mad. The woman who is presented as disparate is evident to have gone through a previous nervous depression with a slight hysterical tendency (Gilman, 2015 pg. 56), which can be assumed to be a nervous breakdown since little has been said about the origin of the condition. The yellow papers in the women's room turn into an obsession affecting her mental status, which deteriorates resulting in a psychological collapse.
However, these yellow wallpapers are not the origin of the narrator's psychotic behavior. The story begins with the narrator in a perfect and stable state of mind. Nonetheless, due to the state of desperation in which the woman is in, various signs are given which hints to the state of her previous breakdown in her subconscious memory. At this instance, the situation in which the woman is going through is similar to what Amy, the mother to Sonny, was going through due to the unpredictable nature of her husband, Eddie. The same state of desperation is also reflected in the second story of the Bloodline, which is The Sky Is Gray. The Sky Gray, narrated from the perspective of a child, the story follows the events of a single day (Gaines, 1968). Despite the main theme of the story being manhood, the theme of a desperate housewife is reflected on James' mother who traveled with her son to see a dentist from their rural black community. James' mother of James being a black was desperate for treatment. However, she could not get the quality of treatment she wanted within her community. For this reason, she traveled to the white town of Bayonne, desperate to get treatment.
The journey to the white town gives James time to reflect, just as Sunny did in the first story. In the journey, James observed the culture of the South from his encounters. His observations are based on the desperations of the blacks in their attempts to get the services from the whites in the town. The situation of James's mother compares to that of the woman in the The Yellow Wallpapers who was skeptical about everything. In the introductory parts of the story, she questions why they would pay so little for such a mansion they were living in; she even went ahead to call the house a haunted house. In the state of her desperation, she perceived that there is something queer about the house (Gilman, 2015 pg. 56). Her perception does not present her insanity.
However, her perception presents a certain level of superstition possibly from the effect of incomplete recovery due to her previous mental breakdown making her desperate. Her level of desperation is presented when she calls her husband, John, a physician stating that he is one of the reasons he is not getting well faster as he does not believe she is sick. Here, the woman in the story is so desperate to get well and blames her husband as one of the reasons she cannot get well (Gilman, 2015 pg. 56). These lines in the story present significant evidence which reaffirms the fact that the woman, who is the narrator in the story, is desperate to recover from her previous illness. The lines also confirm that the narrator is fully aware of her illness and may be suffering from hallucinations due to her condition. Her desperation and the silly fancies have been evident since her childhood and have been briefly described in her narration. The narrator in her childhood used to get entertained by staring at the blank walls and the plain furniture showing how much she was desperate for something unknown to her. The narrator in her childhood used to be so desperate and in her imaginations thought that her safety could come from hopping into a chair where her safety would come.
On the other hand, in the Bloodline from the headline which centers the conflict between a plantation owner by the name Frank Laurent, and his nephew, Cooper, who is born of a black woman takes us through the desperation of the woman in the post-slavery era. Cooper is seen to oppose the vestiges which remained reflecting the slavery era. Due to the race of her mother, Cooper is discriminated against by Frank and is not allowed to inherit the plantation on Frank's death. In the final story in the collection of stories in the Bloodline, Just Like a Tree, we encounter Aunt Fe, a beloved African American matriarch (Gaines, 1968). The old black woman encounters a desperate situation where she is being taken out of her lifelong home. The area in which this woman lived was facing retaliation and the niece feared for her safety. The story is special among the other stories forming the collections in the Bloodline as it utilizes multiple perspectives as opposed to the other stories which utilize a single first-person narrator. Just Like a Tree is narrated by various members of the black community, an African American Visitor from the north and a white woman owning a plantation. Throughout the story, just as in the situation of the woman in The Yellow Wallpapers Aunt Fe is opposed to leaving the plantation. She was too desperate to leave her home to the extent that she died in the process before leaving the plantation.
The narrator in The Yellow Wallpapers on the other hand depicts a clear show of desperation. She admits that her imagination was more than that of most children. According to her, she was dealing with some levels of psychosis in her life (Gilman, 2015 pg. 59). These personifications by the narrator are clear indications of hallucinations experienced by the narrator which is common with desperation. In her state of desperation which is fuelled by The Yellow Wallpapers as the stimulus, the woman often experiences fantasies which slowly transform into dangerous hallucinations. Thus, due to the situation of desperation and the state of mind in which the woman is in, it is essential to question every statement she makes throughout the story. The narrator herself admits of being mentally unstable, unlike in the Bloodlines, no woman in all the short stories admitted of their mental instability. In her mental instability while writing the story of The Yellow Wallpapers it is important for the reader to differentiate between what the narrator is seeing and that which she thinks she is seeing. The narrator, who is a housewife to John, presents the reader with a difficult situation under which she has to be considered as an unreliable narrator.
The collection of stories in the Bloodline have their central motif revolving around manhood. Most of the male characters in these stories are majorly concerned with proving themselves as men which to Gains is more than their masculinity (Gaines, 1968). However, the theme of manhood in every story has been presented at the expense of the women. Just like in The Yellow Wallpapers the women in these short stories have been presented as desperate and dominated by the males. However, looking at the deeper aspect of these stories in the Bloodline and The Yellow Wallpapers the women in these stories appear to be manlier due to their concerns and actions than the men themselves. Regarding gender roles and the relations, the desperations of these women are evident in a positive way. The narrator in The Yellow Wallpapers is concerned about getting well and starting to work again. The same situation is seen in the short stories of the Bloodline which explores the intergenerational relations mainly between the women and their sons. These individuals are seen working closely to a common goal like in the second story where James takes his mother to see a dentist.
Gaines, E. J. (1968). Bloodline. Vintage.
Gilman, C. P. (2015). The yellow wallpaper. Penguin UK.
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