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The Language and Syntax of The Yellow Wallpaper

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From the minute you read the read the first paragraph until you finish the last sentence, Charlotte Gilman captures her reader s attention as her character documents her own journey into insanity in The Yellow Wallpaper.   As her character passes a seemingly indefinite amount of time, it becomes clear that her husband s treatment is affecting her.  Gilman is able convey the narrator s changing mental state through language and syntax.

    Gilman manipulates the reader s perspective throughout her story as she immediately introduces us to her world.  Language plays an important role as a normal woman assesses her husband s profession and her own supposed illness.  The narrator comes across intelligent if not a little paranoid-less concerned with  a slighthysterical tendency  but rather a  queer untenanted (Gilman 691) house.  Her suspicion occurs early on; appearing at first as misdirection meant to foreshadow a possible ghost story.  She goes on to describe  the most beautiful place  with a  delicious garden (Gilman 692).  Her depiction is that of a quaint home-leading thereader to imagine a stable woman in a new setting.  Clearly the narrator s broad vocabulary is an indication of her right-mindedness as well as her ability to examine a condition she disagrees with.

    A description of the wall is necessary in order to provide a base for comparison with the rest of the story.  Because we only get the narrator s point of view, descriptions of the wall become more important as a way of judging her deteriorating mental state.  When first mentioned, she sees the wall as a  sprawling, flamboyant pattern committing every artistic sin, (Gilman 693) once again emphasizing her present intellectual capacity.  Additionally, the w...


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...o convey complex thoughts.

    In contrast, syntax provides a new perspective to the narrator s behavior as sentence structure draws attention to her erratic behavior.  By her last entry, the narrator s sentences have become short and simple.  Paragraphs 227 through 238 contain few adjectives resulting in limited descriptions yet her short sentences emphasize her actions providing plenty of imagery.  The syntax quickly pulls the reader through the end as the narrator reaches an end to her madness.

    Charlotte Gilman s manipulation of language and syntax in her prose is crucial to the overall effect of the story.  What the reader is presented is a story that uses language and syntax to portray a woman s changing mental state. The reader experiences the narrator s deteriorating mental state as she succumbs to her condition and eventually loses her sanity.


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