Kafka and Gilman: First Impressions

To have a better sense of what Gilman’s narrator was experiencing during “The Yellow Wallpaper”, I went to a local coffee shop that had yellow walls and read the text there. After reading the story, I’m no longer sure if that was a good idea. The story was… haunting. It began innocently enough, with the narrator telling us about her new home and some problems with her husband, kind of like something a friend would tell me over coffee. It gets a bit weird, though, when the narrator starts talking about her unhealthy fascination on the yellow wallpaper. Her descriptions were so visual- I remember feeling uncomfortably hyperaware of the yellow walls surrounding me while reading it. What really struck out to me was her voice. She seemed so normal at the beginning, but then there were these trivial details, like that weird fascination with wallpaper, until she becomes completely crazy. It felt a lot like watching a friend’s slow descent into madness. Creepy. Like I said, a bit haunting. I haven’t gone back to that coffee shop since.

Since I read The Yellow Wallpaper first and its themes were still fresh on my mind, its parallels with Kafka’s The Metamorphosis were pretty easy to spot. When Gregor turned into a cockroach (or at least I imagined him to be one), his family had no idea how to react- they discussed a lot “about what attitude they should take towards it all”. They ended up just isolating him into his room and feeling some sort of disgust for him. It reminded me a lot of The Yellow Wallaper (Gilman’s narrator being isolated in the nursery), especially since Gregor’s sister would update her parents about Gregor’s condition (“He’s enjoyed his meal again today”) and that was very similar with Jennie, the sister-in-law/nurse of Gilman’s narrator, updating John about his wife’s condition. I liked Kafka’s story better, though. I thought it was fascinating how it seemed as though Gregor was the one who went through a metamorphosis, but towards the end, I could see that the real people who went through a huge change were the other members of his family.

All in all, I still don’t think I completely understand the stories, especially The Yellow Wallpaper. The shorter readings are usually the weirder ones. (Eg. Medea and The Waste Land) Can’t wait to explore these in more detail during the lecture+seminars.

In other news, my first post! YAY! 😀

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