The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Stetson and Everyday Use by Alice Walker are two short stories that narrate the struggles of the main characters. In The Yellow Wallpaper, the main character, who describes the tale in the first person, is a woman in a repressive marriage who struggles with her mental state. In Everyday Use, mama, the lead character tells of the family struggles among herself and her two daughters in expressing their heritage. The essay aims to compare and contrast the two short stories. Self-expression is the central struggle that shapes the repressive environments in which both the main characters in The Yellow wallpaper and Everyday Use struggle to emancipate themselves from the situations.
The lack of self-expression allows John and Jennie to stifle the woman in The Yellow wallpaper whereas Dee can intimidate Mama and Maggie in Everyday Use. In The Yellow Wallpaper, the narrator tells the reader of the doubt in Johns diagnosis of her mental illness as or well as the prescribed treatment. The family moves to the house, which she describes as haunted for summer. John describes her condition as a state of nervousness whose primary treatment is rest. The narrator, on the other hand, feels that her ailment is more complicated than Johns assessment. However, the narrator does not voice her thoughts because John, as well as her brother both, agree on the diagnosis.
It is also evident that the room of stay in the house is not her choice, but because John presents a better defense, arguably in his eyes, the narrator has to contend with the decision.
The narrator feels that the wallpaper in the room is horrendous and spends hours on end trying to analyze it, but once she attempts to voice her concerns to John, he shuts her down. The narrator even tries to tell John, her husband that her presence in this place did not aid to her healing, but he disagrees (Stetson 652). He repeatedly argues that one must not engage in such fancies and must enforce self-restraint. The narrator also faces opposition from a fellow woman, Jennie who aids with the domestic work and looks after her baby since she is unwell. Jennie serves as Johns eyes when John is at work. This inability to express herself verbally leads her to keep a journal where she can freely express her thoughts.
The struggle intensifies as the story nears the ending when the woman that the narrator sees in the wallpaper starts to make movements. The narrator thinks that the woman gets out in the daytime (Stetson 654). The idea might be symbolic of the freedom that the narrator experiences during the day when John is away at work. When the woman is alone, she can comfortably express individual thoughts and reasoning without fear of the society stifling her ideas. Eventually, the woman strips down the yellow wallpaper and throws away the keys from the room out of the window (Stetson 656).
John comes back, and she tells him where to get the keys. Once inside the room John faints at the changed state of affairs and the woman walks over him symbolizing the new found state of emancipation for the narrator. The newfound confidence allows her to express herself and change the problematic environment that causes her struggles.
Similarly, in Everyday Use, Mama struggles with self-expression when it comes to her daughter Dee. Mamas other daughter Maggie also appears to live in the shadow of her sister Dee. Severally in the story, Mama describes Maggie as shy and pushover who cowers in front of Dee. Similarly, Mama permits Dee to have things done as she pleases because of her level of education and money, which foster her domineering personality. The writer of the story gives an example of Dees self-expression when she speaks of Dee having her own fashion style by the age of sixteen. Dee then comes back with her boyfriend or husband, a relationship that is not clear to neither Mama nor Maggie because Dee does not bother explaining.
Dee informs them of her name change to Wangero, which she argues is a result of her denouncement of foreign ways portrayed by the name Dee (Walker 1128). Mama attempts to explain that the name belonged to several women in their family over several generations but Wangero does not sound convinced.
The differences in the perception of their heritage diverge even further when Wangero asks to take the churn. It is apparent that for Wangero, the churn is merely an object to connect her to her heritage born from superficial reasoning. On the other hand, Maggie, who is too timid to express her thoughts, understands the origin of the churn and its use. Wangero goes on to ask for the quilts that belong to her grandma. Mama has a difficult time explaining that she promised the quilts to Maggie once she got married. Maggie who presents a demeanor that suggests she lacks confidence and idolizes Dee agrees to let Dee keep the quilts. The look on Maggie finally pushes Mama to take a stand and to deny Dee the quilts.
At this point, the struggle to own her ideas on heritage as well as the practicality of issues ends. Dee leaves claiming that both Mama and Maggie would never know their culture, a statement that lacks merit (Walker 1131). The ability to own self-expression finally changes the dimensions in the relationship between Mama and Dee.
The different struggles that the protagonists in the two stories face form the main contrast between the two stories. In The Yellow Wallpaper, the narrator is suffering from male oppression and societal constraints. The woman is in a marriage, which stifles her opinion on every issue. John has a problem with her writing to express herself, her change of the wallpaper, her choice of room, and her opinion on her state of health. Once John asks the narrators brother for a judgment of the diagnosis, the brother agrees with John. John suggests that if the narrator does not get better, he will send her to Weir Mitchell who the narrator claims would agree with both the brother and John (Stetson 650). The narrator shows a continued struggle for liberation from misogyny.
On the other hand, in Everyday use, mama, the narrator illustrates the struggle in the expression of heritage. Mama represents a generation of black people who despite the lack of formal education had real ties and connections with their history. Dee represents a different generation that struggles with identity because they have influence from western culture but attempt to identify with black culture superficially through tangible items. The change of name from Dee to Wangero as well as the idea behind taking the churn and quilts illustrates the misconception (Walker 1128).
Mama and Maggie struggle to express their beliefs because of Dees education level.
In conclusion, The Yellow wallpaper and Everyday Use both illustrate two different struggles but with a similar goal for self-expression. Both stories represent two eras where the fight for female liberation began as well as a cultural identity for black people. The two stories have the narrations in the first person to express the individual thoughts and inner struggles.
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