Comparison of Yellow Wallpaper and Shiloh
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At first, John from “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Leroy Moffitt from “Shiloh” seem completely different from each other. John is a physician who only believes in what he can physically see, while Leroy is a man lost in his own life, looking for a purpose. John’s wife is very dependent on him, whereas Leroy’s wife Norma Jean has her own life. However, the two seem more alike than first appears. If we compare John and Leroy, we can see both stories demonstrate how husbands can drive their wives away by being too restrictive of them.
The first similarity between these two characteristics is that they have limited views of their wives. Throughout the story John constantly thinks of the narrator as a child. First he puts her in a child’s nursery (p. 298). He also calls her by children’s names; for example, he uses the terms “blessed little goose” (p.299) and “little girl” (p.303). Whenever she makes a suggestion, he dismisses it, as he does when she asks him to change the wallpaper (p.299). John also threatens her by saying he may take her to a nerve specialist if she does not get well faster, as if he were a father instilling fear in his child (p.301). At one point John carries her upstairs, lays her in bed, sits by her bedside, and reads to her until she grows tired (p.302).
He even comforts her as one does a child when he finds her awake at night, saying to her, “’Don’t go walking about like that, you’ll get a cold’” (p.303). Consequently, John shows that he thinks his wife is not a responsible adult. Leroy likes to imagine Norma Jean as she used to be. When he lies on the couch while Norma Jean plays music, he sees how pretty she still is (p.579). He recalls the time Randy passed away in the back seat of their car during a drive-in movie. When they took him to the hospital, he remembers thinking, “Who is this strange girl?” (p.580). Leroy also remembers that before his accident whenever he came home, he and Norma Jean just stayed in the house, watching TV in bed and playing cards (p.582). She also cooked all of his favorite foods: fried chicken, picnic ham, and chocolate pie (p.582).
As a result of their attitude, both husbands do not give their wives what they need. John tries to control everything that the narrator does. As both a physician and her husband, he places her under scheduled prescription times, taking full care of her (p.298). He decides her treatment, requiring her to take phosphates and forbidding her to work until she becomes well again (p.297). John argues that the worst thing possible for her is to write or think about her condition (p.297). He also decides that the best thing for her to do is rest. John also tells her with her imaginative power and habit of story making, the nervous weakness she possesses will lead her to excited fancies (p.299). As the story progresses, because of John’s control over the narrator and him not giving her what she needs, she begins to seem on edge, saying, “I don’t know why I should write this. I don’t want to. I don’t feel able. And I know John would think it absurd. But I must say what I feel and think in some way it is such a relief” (p.302).
Their relationship even reaches the point where the narrator has to ask for permission to visit family (p.302). John tells her she should sleep all that she can and has the narrator lie down for an hour after each meal (p.304). Because Leroy grows so accustomed to how Norma Jean treats him, he tries to keep her in the past. He buys her an electric organ and haves her play music for him because he wants to bring her back to her high school days, when she used to play the piano (p.579). He tries convincing Norma Jean to build a log house for them to live in, even though she constantly reminds him she does not want to live in one (p.582). Leroy is not supportive of her taking classes at community college. He asks her what she is doing it for, and tells her that when he used to drive a rig, nobody cared about his English, implying she in particular did not care. Leroy later wonders if he is still the king of his house, which shows he’s questioning whether or not Norma Jean is fooling around with another man (p.585). He brings up going to Shiloh because he believes it’s what she needs to get away.
Due to their behavior, both men lead their wives to rebel. John’s controlling behavior causes the narrator to abandon him by going completely mad. First, she questions John’s pronouncements. The narrator believes that congenial work, with excitement and change would do her good (p.297). Next, she focuses on the wallpaper. She describes its negative features noting that patches are gone as if school boys wore it out (p.298). Upset by her husband’s actions, the narrator decides to begin writing in secret. . It reaches the point where the narrator has to hide her writings from him, because he gets upset if she even writes a word (p.298).
-After time passes, we see her obsession grow. John seems to be oblivious to the narrator’s conditions, telling her “you know the place is doing you good” (p.299). She notices that the pattern is torturing (p.303). Finally, she begins to see a woman hiding behind the pattern (p.304). Looking for the woman in the pattern gives her something to look forward to (p.305). Ultimately she comes to believe that she is the woman in the wallpaper and wants to free herself. She begins peeling off the paper through the night, and by morning removes all the paper she could while standing (p.307). The narrator even begins to contemplate jumping out of the window, but does not because she sees so many of those same women now everywhere (p.308). At this point she finally abandons John; when he comes in the room he faints in shock from what she’s done (p.308).
Because of Leroy’s actions, Norma Jean builds herself up and leaves Leroy. She begins by working out, targeting her pectorals (p.578). Norma Jean even begins to work out while talking to Leroy. For example, she does knee raises with ankle weights while trying to convince him to get a job (p.581). Not only does she build herself up physically, but mentally as well. Norma Jean masters the organ almost immediately (p.579). Next, she begins going to night school, taking a composition course at Paducah Community College (p.584). She gets so consumed that she spends all her nights writing compositions (p.584).
During their visit to Shiloh, Norma Jean finally tells Leroy she is going to leave him (p.586). Although he tries to reason with her, she cannot be persuaded. She has become an independent woman and doesn’t need him anymore. Even after she decides to leave Leroy she is still building herself up, exercising her chest muscle as she walks away from him (p.588). Leroy and John are men of two completely different eras and of different mentalities. The wives of the two men are also very different. However, they are indeed similar. They are both men whose restrictive personalities cause their wives to be driven away. And so we can see from these stories that the characteristics and attitude of men can have very negative effects on their significant others, and can ultimately lead them to rebel against them.