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Two completely different stories with many character similarities and differences are “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Edgar Allan Poe’s main character has a mental illness that won’t let him see or admit that he is deranged and Charlotte Perkins Gilman tells a story about the narrator’s mental decline. In both stories, the narrator is the main character suffering from mental illness and both characters are obsessed with a particular object. The main character focuses on the old man’s eye in “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and the main character is obsessed with the hideous wallpaper in the “Yellow Wallpaper.”
At the beginning of the “Tell-Tale Heart,” it is already clear that Poe’s main character is disturbed. “How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily – how calmly, I can tell you the whole story.” (Poe) In this case, the main character thinks that he is telling an innocent story about himself. He wants us to think that his actions are a normal response to someone in his situation. He is matter-of-fact in how he tells his story, almost like it is natural for him to act the way he does. However, in Gilman’s story, the main character tells her story gradually and her obsession grows as her story continues. She describes the house they have moved into for the summer as a beautiful retreat, “The most beautiful place! It is quite alone, standing well back from the road, quite 3 miles from the village” (Gilman). But as she continues to examine every inch of the house, her obsession becomes more obvious when she comes to the wallpaper. “I never saw a worse paper in my life.” (Gilman). This is where she describes the wallpaper in detail and begins to show her instability. She touches on different subjects as she walks around but always comes back to the wallpaper, making some kind of negative remark about it.
In both stories, the main characters have different moods. In Poe’s story he is excited. “So you think that I am mad? A madman cannot plan. But you should have seen me.” (Poe). The main character seems to be excited that this is happening. He is eager and almost proud of himself for his actions and thinks his plan is perfect. In Gilman’s story the narrator is not so sure of herself. “I suppose John never was nervous in his life. He laughs at me so about this wallpaper!” She thinks that her behavior is normal. She believes that her actions are not unreasonable and that her husband is responding the way any husband would.
In conclusion, the main characters in both stories are not rational and fail to realize it themselves. The main character in “The-Tell-Tale Heart” wants you to believe that he is perfectly sane and is adamant that his actions were necessary to save himself from the evil eye. On the other hand, Gilman’s main character doesn’t believe that her struggles with her husband and the wallpaper are important enough to be concerned about and in the end frees herself of her rival, the wallpaper.
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