The Yellow Wallpaper

1473 words - 6 pages

When looking at two nineteenth century works of change for two females in an American society, Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Stephen Crane come to mind. A feminist socialist and a realist novelist capture moments that make their readers rethink life and the world surrounding. Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” was first published in 1892, about a white middle-class woman who was confined to an upstairs room by her husband and doctor, the room’s wallpaper imprisons her and as well as liberates herself when she tears the wallpaper off at the end of the story. On the other hand, Crane’s 1893 Maggie: A Girl of the Streets is the realist account of a New York girl and her trials of growing up with an alcoholic mother and slum life world. The imagery in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Stephen Crane’s Maggie: A Girl of the Streets uses color in unconventional ways by embedding color in their narratives to symbolize the opposite of their common meanings, allowing these colors to represent unique associations; to support their thematic concerns of emotional, mental and societal challenges throughout their stories; offering their reader's the opportunity to question the conventionality of both gender and social systems.
The use of color in Stephan Crane’s Maggie: A Girl of the Streets is crucial when looking at the setting of the story; the repeated use of red is significant when describing Maggie’s mother Mary and the importance of color in describing the social system through the story. It is seen prominently when Maggie and Pete go to the theater, parts of the play paralleled the lives of the common people: "The latter spent most of his time out at soak in pale-green snow storms, busy with a nickel-plated revolver, rescuing aged strangers from villains" (ch. 8), the described "pale-green snowstorms” in the play symbolizes the common people and their inevitability within the world or civilization they live in. Green symbolizes growth and development in the mercantile urban city and "pale" representing the non-changing or staleness of an unproductive world. Symbolically in a snowstorm, nothing grows, the pale-green snowstorms that Maggie and Pete see in the play parallel to their lives in a world of no personal change in a city of booming industrialization.
The use of color in Crane’s novel is purposeful in looking at Mary’s character, she is continuously described as a shade of red. The narrator describes Mary’s face as “crimsoned and wet with perspiration. Her eyes had a rolling glare” (ch. 9), continuously compared to an enraged and emotional woman. Even the description of their surroundings at the mother’s home was highlighted as "[the] glow from the fire threw red hues over the bare floor, the cracked and soiled plastering, and the overturned and broken furniture" (ch. 3), their surroundings are hell-like, the emphasis on the broken furniture and cracked plaster embodies a world of hopelessness. Mary is constantly in a state of...

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