In Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell Tale Heart,” the protagonist’sconscience overtakes him and his assertions of sanity prove hisinsanity. For example, he proves his insanity when he asserts, “Nowthis is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But youshould have seen how wisely I proceeded-with what caution-with whatforesight-with what dissimulation I went to work!" (2). On theother hand, in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Charlotte Perkins Gilmanprovides an eloquent description of a woman’s struggle against heroverbearing husband and her slow descent into lunacy. As such, theanalysis shows how different madness is articulated in “The TellTale Heart” and “The Yellow Wallpaper” based on gender.
Gilman illustrates the status of the protagonist, her mutiny againsther confinement, her feelings of disintegration, and her obedience tolaws established by men. In an attempt to flee the domineeringcontrol by her husband, the protagonist descends into madness. Thus,madness appears to alter the undesirable paradigm of female lunacyinto an essential confirmation of the female self, flouting therestraints of domination and isolation that enslaves the protagonist.The narrator assertions illustrate her lunacy and its implication toherself, for example, “I think it is due to thisnervous condition. But John says if I feel so, I shall neglect properself-control so I take pains to control myself—before him, atleast, and that makes me very tired,” (329). The heroine’ssociety deprives women of their satisfaction and rights thus, thewriter acknowledges that women can only attain status free ofdomination and prejudice by recognizing the madness’ environs andthe doctrines created by men. It is against this backdrop that theprotagonist descends into lunacy to destroy her husband’sdomination over her.
In Poe’s story, the narrator seeks to persuade the audience of hissaneness, but with each effort poignantly demonstrates that he istruly insane. Moreover, the narrator’s claim of an outside forceand his intermittent and jumbled language suggests that he isanarchic hence, insane. The lack of motive in the killing of the oldman suggested by the narrator’s assertion of, “Object there wasnone. Passion there was none. I loved the old man,” (2) illustratesthe narrator’s insanity. As such, the two stories differ in theirrepresentation of madness with Poe’s account illustrating madnessas a causative aspect while Gilman’s account illustrating madnessas a caused aspect. The narrator’s madness in Poe’s story resultsin the murder of the old man while the protagonist’s madness inGilman’s account helps her to escape from confinement anddomination.
Perkins Gilman, Charlotte. "The yellow wallpaper." InBausch, Richard, ed. The Norton anthology of short fiction.WW Norton & Company, 2015, 327-338. Print.
Poe, Edgar Allan. Tell-Tale Heart. HayesBarton Press, Boston, 2001. Print.