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The Unreliable Narrator of "The Yellow Wallpaper": Effect on The Reader

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Words: 661 |

Page: 1|

4 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Words: 661|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Table of contents

  1. The Distorted Perceptions of the Unreliable Narrator
  2. The Reader's Emotional Engagement and Empathy
  3. Conclusion

Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story, "The Yellow Wallpaper," is renowned for its exploration of mental illness and the oppressive nature of patriarchal society. One of the key elements that contributes to the story's impact is the use of an unreliable narrator. Through the eyes of the protagonist, the reader is exposed to a distorted reality, which raises questions about the nature of truth and the reliability of subjective experiences. This essay aims to examine the effect that the unreliable narrator has on the reader, highlighting the ways in which it enhances the story's themes and engages the audience in a deeper understanding of the protagonist's plight.

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The Distorted Perceptions of the Unreliable Narrator

From the outset, the narrator's unreliability becomes apparent as she introduces her own mental instability. The reader is immediately confronted with the protagonist's declaration that her husband and physician believe she is "sick" and that she should rest. However, the narrator dismisses their concerns, asserting that "there is nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression." This contradiction sets the stage for the reader's understanding that the narrator's perceptions cannot be fully trusted.

As the story progresses, the narrator's unreliability becomes more pronounced. She fixates on the yellow wallpaper in her room, obsessively describing its patterns and attributing sinister qualities to it. She believes that there is a woman trapped behind the wallpaper, and she becomes increasingly convinced that the woman is trying to escape. These delusions are presented to the reader as if they were real, blurring the lines between the protagonist's imagination and reality.

The effect of the unreliable narrator is twofold. Firstly, it creates a sense of unease and tension for the reader, as they are constantly questioning the veracity of the events unfolding. This uncertainty mirrors the narrator's own mental state and immerses the reader in her experience. Secondly, it highlights the theme of oppression and the silencing of women in patriarchal society. The narrator's voice is disregarded and dismissed by her husband and physician, leaving her with no choice but to retreat further into her own distorted reality.

The Reader's Emotional Engagement and Empathy

One of the most powerful effects of the unreliable narrator is the emotional engagement it elicits from the reader. By presenting the story through the lens of the protagonist's distorted perceptions, the reader is forced to confront the isolation and suffering she experiences. The reader becomes a witness to the narrator's descent into madness, feeling the frustration, fear, and desperation that accompany her journey.

The reader's empathy for the narrator is further heightened by the use of vivid and evocative language. Gilman's descriptions of the wallpaper and the protagonist's mental state evoke a sense of claustrophobia and helplessness. For instance, the narrator describes the wallpaper as having a "repellant, almost revolting" pattern that "commit[s] every artistic sin." These descriptions create a visceral response in the reader, deepening their emotional connection to the narrator's plight.

Additionally, the unreliable narrator allows the reader to explore the oppressive nature of patriarchal society through a personal and intimate lens. The reader is able to witness firsthand the ways in which the protagonist's voice and agency are disregarded, mirroring the experiences of countless women throughout history. This engagement fosters a deeper understanding of the story's themes and encourages the reader to question societal norms and power structures.

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Conclusion

The unreliable narrator in "The Yellow Wallpaper" serves a crucial role in engaging the reader and enhancing the impact of the story. By presenting the narrative through the lens of the protagonist's distorted perceptions, the reader is forced to question the nature of truth and the reliability of subjective experiences. This creates a sense of unease and tension, while also highlighting the oppressive nature of patriarchal society. Furthermore, the reader's emotional engagement and empathy for the narrator deepen the understanding of the story's themes and encourage reflection on societal norms. Through the use of an unreliable narrator, Gilman masterfully crafts a narrative that captivates the reader and prompts a deeper exploration of the human condition.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

The Unreliable Narrator of “The Yellow Wallpaper”: Effect on the Reader. (2024, Jun 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 24, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-unreliable-narrator-of-the-yellow-wallpaper-effect-on-the-reader/
“The Unreliable Narrator of “The Yellow Wallpaper”: Effect on the Reader.” GradesFixer, 14 Jun. 2024, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-unreliable-narrator-of-the-yellow-wallpaper-effect-on-the-reader/
The Unreliable Narrator of “The Yellow Wallpaper”: Effect on the Reader. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-unreliable-narrator-of-the-yellow-wallpaper-effect-on-the-reader/> [Accessed 24 Jul. 2024].
The Unreliable Narrator of “The Yellow Wallpaper”: Effect on the Reader [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jun 14 [cited 2024 Jul 24]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-unreliable-narrator-of-the-yellow-wallpaper-effect-on-the-reader/
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