The Yellow Wallpaper Questions and Answers
by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The Yellow Wallpaper book cover
Start Your Free Trial

What are the ways in which the authors create and develop the narrators in "The Yellow Wallpaper" and "The Cask of Amontillado"?

Expert Answers info

Tamara K. H. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2010

write3,619 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

In the short stories "The Yellow Wallpaper" and "The Cask of Amontillado," both authors, Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Edgar Allan Poe, respectively, create narrators the reader can empathize with. However, by the end of Poe's story, Montresor is clearly shown to be a villain, making him an unreliable narrator, whereas Jane is shown to be victimized throughout.

In "The Yellow Wallpaper," the reader develops empathy for Jane, the narrator, the moment she says of her husband, "You see he does not believe I am sick!," early in the story. We continue to develop empathy for her the more we see her being oppressed by her husband, who claims he knows what's best for her. For example, he oppresses her when, though she wants to take a room downstairs in their rented country house, a room decorated with "roses all over the window" and "pretty old-fashioned chintz hangings," John refuses, saying there is not enough room for two beds. Instead, he insists that they use the nursery on the top floor as their bedroom, a room she hates on account of the ugly yellow wallpaper. As John becomes more oppressive throughout the story, the yellow wallpaper becomes equally oppressive to Jane, and her oppression eventually drives her mad by the end of the story.

Similarly, Poe elicits empathy in the reader for the narrator Montresor the moment the narrator reports having been injured and insulted by Fortunato to the point of wanting revenge:

The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge.

Yet, the narrator never explains to the reader exactly what wrongdoing Fortunato is guilty of that merits revenge. In fact, due to the friendliness with which Fortunato greets Montresor and his complete inability to distrust Montresor, the reader can suspect Fortunato is not guilty of any wrongdoing at all, calling into question the narrator's reliability. Hence, though like Gilman, Poe elicits the reader's empathy for the narrator, unlike Gilman's story, the reader's empathy for Montresor does not continue once the reader sees him as the oppressor, not the oppressed.

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial