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"The Yellow Wallpaper" and "The Nightingale and the Rose" both contain main characters that undergo hardship. How do the authors make us sympathise with these characters?

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Introduction

"The Yellow Wallpaper" and "The Nightingale and the Rose" both contain main characters that undergo hardship. How do the authors make us sympathise with these characters? "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and "The Nightingale and the Rose" by Oscar Wilde, are two stories in which the authors induce a great feeling of sympathy in the reader. Using character personality, circumstance, language and narrative style, both authors encourage us to sympathise with the main characters in a thought-provoking and often unexpected manner. The main character in "The Yellow Wallpaper" is the narrator, whose name, we learn at the end, might be Jane. The reader sympathises with the narrator largely due to her situation. She suffers, it is implied, from post-natal-depression. As she recuperates with her neurasthenia, she is not allowed to do anything but rest, she has "a schedule prescription for each hour in the day" and is especially forbidden from the creative work of writing. Moreover, the narrator is confined to an unpleasant and threatening room, one she strongly dislikes. She states "I should hate it myself if I had to live in this room long". The narrator grows progressively insane, up to the very end of the story, where she is found to have locked herself in her room, and is circling it, creeping. ...read more.

Middle

John's sister, Jennie, is "a perfect and enthusiastic housekeeper", who wants nothing else out of life. She supplants the narrator as a surrogate wife for John and "sees to everything" in the house while the narrator lies in bed. She symbolises the happily domesticated woman who does not find anything wrong with her domesticated prison. Jennie is a character who the narrator undoubtedly compares herself to and is under pressure from society to imitate. This makes the reader sympathise with the narrator, because she is in a place of guilt, a feeling she does not deserve. The nanny, Mary, takes care of the narrator and John's baby. With her name a possible allusion to the Virgin Mary, she is the perfect mother-surrogate for the narrator, an idealised maternal figure whose only concern is her child. Like Jennie, she also symbolises the happily domesticated woman, and, likewise, this causes the reader to sympathise with the pressure placed on the narrator to be like Mary. The woman in the wallpaper also induces sympathy for the narrator. Although the narrator eventually believes she sees many women in the yellow wallpaper, she centers on one. The woman appears trapped behind the bar-like pattern of the wallpaper; she "seemed to shake the pattern just as if she wanted to get out". ...read more.

Conclusion

This makes the reader feel sympathy at the fact that the narrator does not feel able to be herself, that she is always under pressure to follow her husband. Finally, Gilman's narrative style leads the reader to sympathise with the main character. The story is written in the first person, in a diary-like style. This helps the reader to connect with the narrator more easily, and the fact that it is in the narrator's own words makes the reader look at her with greater sympathy. As the story develops, the narrative style becomes progressively fragmented. Much like the chaotic pattern in the wallpaper, the sentences grow choppy and confusing, grafting together disconnected one-line comments, such as: "I quite enjoy the room, now it's bare again. How those children did tear about here! This bedstead is fairly gnawed! But I must get to work." The narrator's tone changes from na�ve and depressed to paranoid and excited, and, as she grows insane, her sentences reflect the state of her mind; she regularly contradicts herself. Towards the end of the story, the narrator changes the topic often, but never fails to return to the subject of the wallpaper, thus exposing her obsession with it. The narrative style induces sympathy, as it shows the reader the deterioration process of the narrator's mind, as she is prevented from making her own choices in life, bound by the ties of a patriarchal society. ...read more.

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