Similarities Between The Yellow Wallpaper And The Turn Of The Screw

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Inferiority and Escape in the Yellow Wallpaper and the Turn of the Screw In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper and Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, the restricted roles of late nineteenth century women are both presented through the protagonist of each story. As a response to these restricted roles, the narrator of The Yellow Wallpaper and the governess in The Turn of the Screw fixate on the ideas of power and dependence, and eventually, in both, they escape from their roles. Through literary devices like ambiguity, symbolism of female domesticity, and themes of sacrifice and insanity, Gilman and James both depict the destructive restraints of male superiority and the cost it takes to escape them. In order to delve into the …show more content…

In The Yellow Wallpaper, the narrator is only referred to by the pet names her husband gives her like “my darling” and “little girl.” (Gilman 8, 9) Sickeningly, this shows that she is only important in her role in the lives of men, and not important as an individual herself. James offers a different use of ambiguity in The Turn of the Screw. While the governess’s lack of a name could also be used to portray her inferiority, there are many named female characters (Mrs. Grose, Jessel, Flora) as well as other unnamed male characters (the uncle, the master of Bly). Contrarily, her lack of a name could be used to show she has taken on the complex of a hero. Similar to figures like Robin Hood who hide their identities, this lack of a name outside of “the governess” could help her depiction as a heroine, since she feels she is there to “protect and defend the little creatures.” (James 41) The effect of this is showing her attempt to escape dependence by raising her feminine and domestic duties to instead be “a service admirable and difficult.” …show more content…

In The Yellow Wallpaper, the narrator shows early signs of defying her husband’s control over her by writing in her journal against his demands. (Gilman 2) She uses this journal as an escape from her life of domesticity and inferiority, but overtime, she is drawn to a much more serious form of escape. At the end of the novel, she says she “had to creep over him ever time,” as she feels she has broken out of the wallpaper (which symbolizes female oppression) and is now creeping around the room over and over again. (15) While this signifies that she has triumphed over male dominance, literally crawling over her husband, it came at the cost of her sanity and normality. At this point, even though she has escaped her role, it is clear she is unable to function in the rational world anymore. Compared to this sacrifice, The Turn of the Screw is even more sinister in that the governess’s escape from her domestic role is at the cost of Flora’s stability and Miles’s life. In order for the governess to truly be freed from her domestic role as the children’s caretaker, she must relinquish her responsibility of her charges. Following the governess’s outburst at the lake, Flora is terrified to the point that she must be taken away. (James 107) With Miles, while the ending-“his little heart, dispossessed, had stopped” -is ambiguous, she has presumably killed him of her own volition through

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