Free Yellow Wallpaper Essays: Descriptions


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Descriptions The Yellow Wallpaper


The descriptive elements in The Yellow Wallpaper do a tremendous amount towards enhancing the reader's perception of the particular kind of insanity that afflicts the narrator. The descriptions, most notably of the wallpaper itself, are multi-sensory, artful and detailed. Using metaphorical images, and surprising combinations of words, the narrator gives numerous ways for readers to experience the wallpaper. In the line regarding the wallpaper: "...they connect diagonaly, and the sprawling outlines run off in great slanting waves of optic horror, like a lot of wallowing seaweeds in full chase." The word pairings of 'optic horror' and the similie are unusual and sensory. This serves to peak the reader's interest and more effectively draw the reader into the description.

Additionally, the range of descriptions of the wallpaper not only cover several intense and detailed visual descriptions, but also an equally detailed olfactory description. The narrator describes the smell of the wallpaper in the following lines:

But there is something else about that paper - the smell! I noticed it the moment we came into the room, but with so much air and sun it was not bad. Now we have had a week of fog and rain, and whether the windows are open or not, the smell is here.

It creeps all over the house.

I find it hovering in the dining-room, skulking in the parlor, hinding in the hall, lying in wait for me on the stairs.

It gets into my hair.

Even when I go to ride, if I turn my head suddenly and surprise it-there is that smell!

Such a peculiar odor, too! I have spent hours trying to analize it, to find what it smelled like.

It is not bad - at first, very gentle, but quite the subtlest, most enduring odor I ever met.

In this damp weather it is awful. I wake up in the night and find it hanging over me.

It used to disturb me at first. I thought seriously of burning the house-to reach the smell.

But now I am used to it. The only thing I can think of that it is like is the color of the paper! A yellow smell.

The two most notable descriptions of the wallpaper also follow (paragraphs removed to save space):

I never saw a worse paper in my life.

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One of those sprawling flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin. It is dull enough to confuse the eye in following, pronounced enough to constantly irritate and provoke study, and when you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide-plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions. It is a dull yet lurid orange in some places, a sickly sulphur tint in others.

I know a little of the principle of design, and I know this thing was not arranged on any laws of radiation, or alteration, or repitition, or symmetry, or anything else that I ever heard of. It is repeated, of course, by the breadths, but not otherwise. Looked at in one way each breadth stands alone, the bloated curves and flourishes - a kind of "debased Romanesque" with delirium tremens go waddling up and down in isolated columns of fatuity. But on the other hand, they connect diagonally, and the sprawling outlines run off in great slanting waves of optic horror, like a lot of wallowing seaweeds in full chase. The whole thing goes horizontally, too, at least it seems so, and I exhaust myself in trying to distinguish the order of its going in that direction. They have used a horizontal breadth for a frieze, and that adds wonderfully to the confusion.

This type of nightmarish description that the narrator continually lives out by watching the wallpaper does not go unexperienced by sane individuals. Sickness or delerium can, and has with myself, induced intense dreams where confusing images and frustrating attempts to make things out make sleeping even more restless. Have you ever woken in the middle of the night, perhaps in a high fever, then returned to sleep only to dream about that inocuous design or anonymous piece of furniture you've focused on in that tiny amount of conscious time? Much like the narrator describes, one's mind tries desperately to find meaning where there is none. It is not pleasant, and my own experience of this is described beautifully in the above passages. The detailed descriptions of the wallpaper are a fundamental part in pulling the reader into the narrator's world, but also essential is the way that these descriptions nearly perfectly encapsulate what we might all imagine it is like to be insane. It is worthwhile to note at this point that The Yellow Wallpaper is somewhat auto-biographical, and a reading of "Why I Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper?" might be beneficial in understanding this point-of-view. Our classmates Shaila, Robert G., and Robert I. also explore the relationship between an author's work and their backgrounds in their web page entitled: "How do an author's experiences shape his work?"

Perhaps you have experienced something like what the narrator is describing in a dream or when you were sick.


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