How is Madness presented through the protagonist in The Yellow Wallpaper compared to The Bell Jar?

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How is Madness presented through the protagonist in ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ compared to ‘The Bell Jar’?

The protagonist is extremely important within a novel, they give the reader a focus and a bond to someone they know so much about, in this case Esther and the Narrator. The protagonist is explained within the novel which the reader may interpret in their own way; this gives the effect of a personal closeness to the book, so that the reader can relate to the protagonist, although the effect of post natal depression in ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ and suicidal depression in ‘The Bell Jar’ also distances the reader from the protagonist because insanity is a world away from a ‘normal mind’.

‘The Bell Jar’ is written in the first person, displaying to the reader personal closeness to the novel, thus making the reader feel a bond to the protagonist, the reader develops an intimate relationship to the narrator due to them reading the novel as themselves as they become the ‘I’ of the novel. Esther narrates her life from her descent into madness and her climbing back out; it's a vivid picture of the inside of a mind through insanity as well as the healing of Esther’s mind. ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ is also written in first person narrative; this lets us feel closer to the Narrator, although we never do find out her name, so it could be argued that it makes the reader feel like they’ve found the diary that she has been writing in which also separates us from the Narrator. The Narrator decides to keep a secret diary, and from that point on it’s as if all her thoughts are secret and not visible to the outside world, although it’s not just her mind that is confined in the diary, she is also physically confined, the Narrator represents this through her character and explains this to the reader by saying things such as “there are hedges and walls and gates that lock” this powerfully emphasises the protagonist being trapped not only physically but emotionally and how she is also very much alone and closed off from everyone.

The protagonist of ‘The Bell Jar’ we first see as an educated and independent woman, and we slowly see her deteriorate throughout the book; we understand that Esther is educated and independent as she has been offered an all expenses paid internship at a fashion magazine.  The reader sees Esther’s sane self deteriorate through the book whereas we see the Narrator’s madness from the beginning. Although it could be argued that we see Esther underlying depression from the start, she says in reference to the coverage of the Rosenburgs execution “I thought it must be the worst thing in the world” our first impression of Esther must be that she already is slightly depressed considering she is obsessed with the worst things in the world, although it could also be seen as Esther saying that she is frightened of death, contrasting to the middle of the book where she is contemplating suicide.

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We learn a lot about Esther from the first chapter of the book, we find out about what she does, who her friends are and what she’s like. Whereas in ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ all we find from the Narrator is her gender, class and marriage, this all makes it into the first sentence of the books but her name doesn’t, suggesting that these general characteristics could be more important to the plot than her actual identity; this can be contextualised from women’s roles in earlier times. It could also suggest the parallel of the women’s imprisonment in the home, although ...

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