Comparison of Two Short Stories- "The Yellow Wall Paper" v. "Death by Landscape"

Essay by crenCollege, UndergraduateA, November 2009

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"Death by Landscape" v. "The Yellow Wallpaper""She was tired a lot, as if she was living not one life but two: her own, and another, shadowy life that hovered around her and would not let itself be realized…" (391). For many, the "shadowy life" of mental illness hinders one's ability to be happy and whole. Mental illness and delusion has been a fascinating but devastating topic throughout human existence, and as such, has provided much interesting literature, both fictional and factual. Two stories from two completely different time periods: "The Yellow Wallpaper," 1898, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and "Death by Landscape," 1939, by Margaret Atwood both have deep roots in humans' infatuation with mental illness. In both stories, while having different points of origin, the protagonist's deteriorating mental health is the main theme- in both cases it leads them to become obsessed with specific visual stimuli, which then leads them to become dreadfully dethatched from reality.

Though mental illness is a main theme in both stories, the authors chose to cover the topic differently. In "The Yellow Wallpaper" there is no real cause associated with the narrator's depression/delusional state, or at least none talked about in the short story- it is simply present at the beginning. In "Death by Landscape," there is a much larger focus on where the main character Lois's mental instability stems from; at summer camp her best friend, Lucy, mysteriously disappears when the two are off in the woods. On top of the shock from this loss, other girls at the camp and even a councilor imply that Lois purposely pushed Lucy off a cliff. The traumatic experience mixed with the alienation Lois feels undoubtedly leads to her mental illness. Paranoia haunts and torments Lois to the point where she...