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Many Things can Haunt People

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The Dictionary definition for the word ‘haunted’ is defined as “preoccupied, as with an emotion, memory, or idea; obsessed.” People can be haunted by many things including places they’ve been to, things they’ve experienced, or people they’ve interacted with. From the different readings, the wife in “The Yellow Wallpaper”, the Native American in “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven”, and the husband in “Cathedral” are all “haunted” by someone they love.

The wife in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is haunted by the neglect of her husband. Throughout the story, the wife describes the subordination her husband uses in their marriage. During this time period, women in society were seen as second-class citizens. This allowed for husbands to have any and every say in whatever their wives did and said. The story reveals that because of the great amount of gender division in this era, the effect would be keeping women in a childish state of ignorance and preventing their full development. For the wife in the story, this was exuded through her treatment process for her illness. Her husband’s presumption of his own superior intellect and maturity lead him to misjudge, patronize, and dominate his wife, all under the name of trying to “help” her.

The effects of the wife’s “haunting” in the story are shown in the ways she carries herself and by her actions. Because she is locked away in a house far from society, she ultimately goes insane. The wife involuntary hides her anxieties in order to preserve the illusion of a blooming marriage and to make it seem as though she is winning the fight against her depression. She says, “I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes. I’m sure I never used to be so sensitive. I think it is due to this nervous condition.” She continues with, “But John says if I feel so, I shall neglect proper self-control: so, I take pains to control myself – before him, at least, and that makes me very tired.” The wife in the story talks about how she is forced to be passive and forbidden from exercising her mind in any way. She states, “I am glad my case is not serious! But these nervous troubles are dreadfully depressing.” She continues with, “John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no reason to suffer, and that satisfies him…”

The Native American in “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven” by Sherman Alexie is haunted by his ex-girlfriend. From the beginning of the story, the narrator compares the way the graveyard shift worker observed him to the way his ex-girlfriend began to look at him; like a criminal. He says, “She left me not long after that…that’s how it happened…” and continues with, “When one person starts to look at another like a criminal, then the love is over. It’s logical.” He talks about how they would get into verbal arguments where the words were “just as damaging as a fist.” Throughout the story, the narrator brings up different instances where he would drive through the night and end up in areas he’s never been in before just to cool off from the arguments he had with his ex. He always brings up the fact that whenever he gets into arguments in the present, he remembers his ex-girlfriend and how she, like Muhammad Ali, was a genius. He states, “I remember her, and I also remember Muhammad Ali…he knew the power of his fists but, more importantly, he knew the power of his words, too…Ali was a genius.” He continues with, “And she was a genius, too. She knew exactly what to say to cause me the most pain.”

The effect that this haunting has on the narrator is the fact that he has recurring dreams where she visits him in them. In one dream, for instance, the narrator’s ex-girlfriend was a missionary’s wife and he was a minor war chief. The two fell in love but kept it a secret until the missionary caught them and shot the narrator. He says, “As I lay dying, my tribe learned of the shooting and attacked the whites all across the reservation. I died and my soul drifted above the reservation.” Towards the end of the story, the narrator receives a call from his ex at work and describes how the “connection was good.” In this case, he wasn’t commenting on the connection of the phone call, but the connection between the two of them. After all of the time they haven’t spoken, their love for each other remained the same, yet he says, “I could hear her breathing in the spaces between our words. How do you talk to the real person whose ghost has haunted you? How do you tell the difference between the two?”

The husband in “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver is haunted by the relationship his wife has with a blind man who is a stranger to him. In the story, the husband is introduced to the blind man by his wife, who has had a close relationship with the blind man for quite some time. She first met him after applying for a job in an ad to work for him and since then, they’ve communicated by tapes they recorded and sent to each other for years. The blind man knew everything about the narrator’s past life with her ex-husband to her present life with the narrator. This relationship

The effect the relationship had on the husband in the story is quite severe. When the husband’s wife arrives with the blind man, the husband watches as she helps him out of the car with his things. Before they even arrived though, he had been drinking, he says, “So when the time rolled around, my wife went to the depot to pick him up…with nothing to do but wait-sure, I blamed him for that-I was having a drink and watching the TV when I heard the car pull into the drive.” He continues with, “My wife took his arm, shut the car door, and talking all the way, moved him down the drive and then up the steps to the front porch. I turned off the TV. I finished my drink, rinsed the glass, dried my hands. Then I went for the door.” This shows that the husband was so stressed about the blind man’s visit that he had to numb himself with alcohol to get through it.

Between the different stories, the wife in “The Yellow Wallpaper”, the Native American in “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven”, and the husband in “Cathedral” are all “haunted” by someone they love. Because the hauntings are coming from people that the characters are connected to, it makes the haunting more severe.  

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