What should be included in an outline on the subject of insanity using the stories "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner and " The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The classic short stories “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Gilman Perkins and “A Rose for Emily” have protagonists that face difficult mental issues alone.  These ladies come from different places in their lives; however, both of them live in  worlds that swallow them up.

The unnamed narrator in “The Yellow Wallpaper” receives treatment from her husband who is a doctor.  He is following a method adhered to for depression following the birth of a baby. 

The cure is complete rest: no working, writing, playing, going outside, taking care of the baby, and no mental challenges.  Gilman herself followed this "cure" for three months, which almost drove her over the edge of sanity. 

The speaker has no one to help or to listen to her.  She does not believe that her husband thinks that she is sick.

"I cry at nothing, and cry most of the time. Of course, I don't when John is here, or anybody else, but when I am alone. And I am alone a good deal just now.  I'm getting fond of the room iin spite of the wallpaper.  It dwells in my mind so!"

Her loneliness drives her into hallucinations and apparitions. She believes that the garden outside her window is inhabited by girls.  The most telling sign of her emotional imbalance is her connection to the wallpaper in her room. 

In the late nineteenth century, marriage for many women was unfulfilling.  Her husband was emotionally unavailable.  He did not listen to her and try to understand her point of view.  She had no identity of her own.  The narrator, for instance, was nothing but the wife of the doctor.

The narrator’s life parallels the yellow wallpaper in her room. It is deteriorating from a lack of attention. The pattern of the paper is disconnected and imprecise. She becomes trapped in a world that she no longer understands.

Emily Grierson’s fall into insanity stemmed from the same loneliness that the narrator faced in the other story.  Her father prevented her from having any kind of relationships with men.  He did not leave her with any security or money.  She was an only child and her only companion was a black servant. Her loneliness consumed her. Emily had no one.

Emily was rejected by a man that she apparently loved.  Her resolution to loneliness was to make the man stay with her forever by murdering him and placing him in an upstairs room which was her wedding bed.

There had been insanity in her family. Her aunt from Alabama had been known to be insane.

However, what did the town do to help Emily? This was a time when neighbors took care of each other.  The town watched her, knew what she was doing, and did nothing.  They simply waited for her to die.

Without any real understanding or help, Emily sinks into a world of odors, deteriorating bones, and pretense. She dies alone in a chair downstairs, no longer able to climb the stairs.

Outline for both characters:

  1. What caused the insanity? What were the specific reasons of the deterioration of their minds?
  2. How does it manifest itself in emotional imbalance?
  3. Who could have helped them? Did they?
  4. What happened to them when they sank into psychosis?

Take each of these questions and turn it into a topic sentence to use as the supporting points for the thesis.

 For example:

  1. Both characters suffered from breakdowns because of the fact that they faced each day completely alone.
Read the study guide:
The Yellow Wallpaper

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