After discussing both stories, I offered DS his choice of three topics; he chose to write about the use of color in both stories. This is his first-ever attempt at literary analysis. We'd love to have your comments, and thanks for taking the time to read.
Cataract-Causing Colors Create Crazy Conundrum
Miss Emily, from William Faulkner’s story “A Rose For Emily,” was a nice, “bright” woman, who over time slowly greyed and turned sour. The (unnamed) woman from Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s story “The Yellow Wallpaper” was a mostly regular but sick woman who slowly went insane aided by the color and pattern of the hideous wallpaper. In both of these stories, a (somewhat) regular woman is forced into a worse state because of color in some form. These stories both use color to accentuate changes in character over time.
Emily started out in the beginning of the story, like everything around her, to be white and pure and happy. In her picture, she was described as “a slender figure in white in the background.” (RFE 129) Emily’s world was devoid of color (all faded yellows and greys), representing her lack of friends and family, which turned her colorless as well. Everything about her, from the furniture, to the clothes, and even the house itself, turned grey and off-white (“house that had once been white,” (RFE 129)), for lack of light (“a pillow yellow and moldy with age and lack of sunlight”(RFE 135)), thus reflecting loneliness, Emily’s main feelings.
As the story progresses, the descriptions of colors changed. She neglected things around her, turning them and herself into a kind of tarnished- grey: ”a tarnished silver, so tarnished the monogram was obscured.” (RFE 135) She wouldn’t let herself be lured into another trap, like when her father died, leaving her alone. The next time someone came into her life and made her happy, when she felt him slipping away, she poisoned him, so he would never get to leave her. (RFE 133) Then she slipped further into her depression-like state, and didn’t leave the house until the day she died. After she died, Homer Barron was found in a rose colored room, filled with “faded rose-colored curtains, casting light upon the rose-shaped lights,” the only mention of a room with color in it. (RFE 135)
“The Yellow Wallpaper” starts with a woman who didn’t like the uneven hideous yellow wallpaper in her room. She gradually grew more and more infuriated with it, as she started to see dead bodies and “broken necks and bulbous yellow eyes” (YW 120), then “creeping women” (YW 123) lurking about in the sadistic paper. The pale woman behind the wallpaper was always seen creeping and lurking about, and even hid from the others in the story. The “sulfur-colored” yellow wallpaper went from an annoyance to an obsession in a short amount of time.
Later in the story, she starts to imagine the paper to be even more than just a pattern. She even found the others looking at and touching the paper (because apparently the pattern is so ugly, it stains clothes with “yellow smooches” (YW 125)) and went into a terrified delirium about the paper, thinking that the woman she thought she saw behind it was now quickly “creeping around the house.” (YW 126) She even began to smell the paper, and thought that it was a “yellow smell.” Eventually, her madness grew enough that she simply became the woman from behind the paper. She tears the yellow wallpaper down, so that “she cannot be put back behind the paper.” (YW 127) She then crawls around the room, over her husband’s body, pressing against the notch in the wall. (YW 128) At the end of the story, the main character turns into the thing that she fears, loves and despises at the same time: the “pale woman from behind the paper.” When she realizes that she is the woman behind the paper, she creeps in a circle around the room, “her shoulder fitting into the path” left by the last woman to go insane from the power of the evil and foul yellow wallpaper. (YW 128)
Color plays a large role in these stories, as well as others. Colors can invoke a mood, or stimulate a feeling in a reader. Both of these stories use color in them, one showing carelessness and neglect, the other highlighting unpredictability and insanity. Both women were driven to their own kind of madness, either by the lack of color, or the obscenity of it. It is possible that the wallpaper only showed the woman what she wanted to see, which was something to show her she isn’t crazy. It is also possible that Emily’s world was devoid of color because she shut herself in; the colorlessness represents her lack of friends and family.