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Examine the concept of afragmentation of identity inFrankenstein and 'The Yellow Wallpaper'.

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Examine the concept of a fragmentation of identity in Frankenstein and 'The Yellow Wallpaper'. Both Frankenstein and 'The Yellow Wallpaper' yield to the psychological basis of the Gothic tradition. There has been much debate over whether 'The Yellow Wallpaper', a short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, is a study of madness or a literal ghost story. I have concentrated upon the view that the narrator is trapped in the limitations of her own mind as much as she is trapped on the top floor of the ancestral halls where she is staying. When the story came out in 1892 the critics saw 'The Yellow Wallpaper' as a description of female insanity and a Boston physician remarked that such a story should never have been written as it was "enough to drive anyone mad". Mary Shelley also seems aware of the psychological impact Frankenstein had, as she refers to it as her "hideous progeny." Frankenstein and 'The Yellow Wallpaper' are birth myths and both focus on the trauma of afterbirth. The 'Yellow Wallpaper' deals with the anxieties of a woman's social place during pregnancy. In C19th social context, a woman would no longer be seen in terms of her mind once she had given birth, but her body. The fragmentation of the narrator's identity occurs once she had given birth. ...read more.


When the woman gets 'beyond' the wallpaper, it symbolises Gilman defying the power that men wielded over women, in order to be able to write again. However, Gilman supplies a different fate for her narrator, whose poignant triumph over the wallpaper actually symbolise her insanity. Shelley adopts the same idea and it is only once Victor conquers the accepted limitations of human capacity that he realises his mistake. In 'The Yellow Wallpaper' the female narrator is suffering from post natal depression and schizophrenia. This leads to her fragmentation of identity; she believes herself to be both the woman confined to her bed and the woman 'creeping' inside the nauseating wallpaper. The wallpaper is the canvas on which her illness is played out. As the woman becomes increasingly confused of her own identity and insanity begins to engulf her, her fascination with the wallpaper intensifies. Representative of this is her remark that there are "a great many women" behind the wallpaper. The lexis used to describe the wallpaper- 'lurid', 'sickly' and 'revolting'- is also symbolic of her view of her fragmented self. It is not be the wallpaper which repulses her, but an aspect of her identity, the one eerily creeping around her which she hates. This detested fragment of her identity is that which makes her incapable of fulfilling her role as mother to her baby, as all she can do is cry all the time. ...read more.


She then begins to envision and become haunted by herself. In contrast, Victor turns mad because of his social fragmentation, initiated with his creation of the monster. He fantasises in Chapter V, "I thought I saw the dreaded spectre glide into the room.... Oh save me! save me! I imagined that the monster seized me." Walton describes Victor as having "an expression of wildness, and even madness." Similarly the narrator's hysteria in 'The Yellow Wallpaper' causes her to fantasise not only herself, but of strings of toadstools and fungus multiplying across the wallpaper. In 'The Yellow Wallpaper' the narrator comments that upon her "a dear baby" but she is still unable to look after him. Victor Frankenstein feels great remorse that he abandons and resents his creation, but he too is powerless to love it. These two characters bitterly regret their inability to fulfil their parental role and remain caught between social roles; as a previously independent human being and as one now responsible for the welfare of another life. Their incapability to decisively adapt to either social role leads to their downfall. The only way Victor can now be at peace is "when he composes his shattered spirit to peace" through death, thus completing the cyclical birth myth. Victor's social fragmentation has led him away from the "glorious creature" he once was and he is all too aware of "the greatness of his fall." ?? ?? ?? ?? Pandora Sykes ...read more.

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