Comparison Of “The Haunting Of Hill House” And “The Yellow Wallpaper”
In “The Haunting of Hill House” and “The Yellow Wallpaper” parallels and “doubling” are key techniques to investigate entrapment and unhappiness. Discuss
The Haunting of Hill House and “The Yellow Wallpaper” use parallels and “doubling” to unfold the feeling of entrapment and unhappiness on each character in the story. In The Haunting of Hill House, Eleanor’s supressed feelings towards her mother, interfere her desire to find belonging. Similarly, in “The Yellow Wallpaper”, the narrator supresses her feelings towards her husband which cause the “doubling” to happen. In order to develop this idea, first, this essay will examine the use of parallels in The Haunting of The Hill House to unravel Eleanor’s purpose – belonging. Next, it will investigate the use of “doubling” to convey the relationships between the narrator’s mental constraints and the lady in the wallpaper. Finally, this essay will compare both the story and the novel use of parallels and “doubling”.
The Haunting of Hill House mainly uses parallels or at least repetition of the past events to examine Eleanor’s purpose to find belonging. Eleanor’s attempt to find belonging seems to be obstructed by her past experience regarding her mother. The feeling of unhappiness and entrapment that Eleanor feels shown up to be the results of her corrupted adulthood as she had to take care of her mother. Unlike other grown up, Eleanor never had the chance to fully developed as an adult; “There never was much excitement for me. I had to stay with Mother, of course. And when she was asleep I kind of got used to playing solitaire or listening to the radio” (pp. 85-86). As a result of this, instead of facing the problem, Eleanor represses all this hatred towards her mother for “stealing” her freedom. These repressions are shown using parallels throughout the story. The first evidence for this is when Eleanor heard some knockings on the wall and her first respond is “Coming, mother, coming… It’s alright, I’m coming”. (p. 127). This may seem strange in the beginning but later in the story, we get the idea why Eleanor’s first respond is her mother. Eleanor says “It was my fault my mother died. She knocked on the wall and called me and called me and I never woke up” ( p. 212). Thus, we can assume that this haunting event reflects Eleanor’s guilt towards her mother but in a way, this guilt turns out to be a relief as by now, we know that her mother is the figure that prevent her from her freedom. The second evidence of repetition is the cup of stars. In the beginning of the novel, Eleanor says, “once they have trapped you into being like everyone else you will never see your cup of stars again” (p.22). Later in the story, Eleanor lies about having this cup of stars; “once I had a blue cup with stars painted on the inside… I want a cup like that” (p.88). This cup of stars being a crucial symbol in this story. It symbolises freedom that Eleanor has been craving for. She even pretends to have this freedom when in fact, her freedom is being taken away by her mother. Therefore, Eleanor says to the girl to not let anyone take away her “cup of stars” because Eleanor knows what is like to have freedom taken away. Finally, another evidence for this is in the climax of the story. The climax happens when Eleanor is being told to leave the house for her safety. Eleanor is leaving Hill House using her car that once she drove to get to Hill House. In the beginning of the story, we know that the car symbolises freedom as she took this car without her sister permission. Now, in the end of the story, Eleanor drives the same car away from Hill House before committing suicide. This car can be seen as her “ride” to reach that freedom. Eleanor feels like Hill House belongs to her and her alone therefore no one can take that away from her; “just by telling me to go away they can’t make me leave, not if Hill House means me to stay” (p. 245). This event reminds us of when the companion decided to hang herself in the house. Just like Eleanor, the companion killed herself because she could not withstand the subsequent tormenting and persecution of younger Miss Crain. It is not known for sure the relation between the companion’s tragedy and Eleanor’s, but it might be related to the house itself. The companion fought her way out to claim her rights of the house but in the end, her efforts were for nothing because the younger Miss Crain was still trying so hard to claim the house as hers. Her decision to kill herself might portray her efforts to be with the house, by killing herself, ironically, she will forever be in the house. Similar to Eleanor, a sense of belonging that she craves from the very beginning can be said “fulfilled” in the end. In a way, being a ghost in the house also provides her freedom. Now that she is a ghost, no one can control her again. However, this means that she is back to being trapped again. Her soul will forever remain and belong to the hill house just like the people that dies in that house. Similar things happen in “The Yellow Wallpaper” but to convey the message, “The Yellow Wallpaper” relies on “doubling” of the narrator and the lady in the wallpaper.
“The Yellow Wallpaper” mainly uses “doubling” to portray the narrator’s mental constraints causes by her suppressed feelings about John’s “superiority” and decision making. In the beginning, the wallpaper seems merely unpleasant; “It is stripped off” (p.3), “It is dull enough to confuse the eye in following… and when you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide” (p.3). The way the narrator describes the wallpaper changes throughout the story as her condition advances. She begins to notice that there is a figure behind the wallpaper; “The faint figure behind seemed to shake the pattern, just as if she wanted to get out” (p. 9). As the narrator realises this, her condition gets better. This gives a hint that this figure could be related with her mental condition which later in the story gets clearer. Next, the narrator is determined to “free” the figure behind the wallpaper. Her dedication to free this figure seems related to her desires to be free from John. She continues her attempts to free the figure without realising that she seems to have merged with it and begin to lose the ability to tell the difference between herself and the lady in wallpaper. “I think that woman gets out in the daytime! I don’t blame her a bit. It must be very humiliating to be caught creeping by daylight! I can’t do it at night…”. In addition, the narrator says; “[h]e asked me all sorts of questions, too, and pretend to be very loving and kind. As if I couldn’t see through him” (p.12). Things begin to contradict her initial descriptions of John because freeing the figure means freeing herself too which involves rejecting social norms – obeying her husband. It can be seen that her journey to free the figure behind the wallpaper has given her some strengths and insight that she needs to break free from her supressed feelings. “I’ve got out at last. In spite of [John] and Jane. And I’ve pulled off most of the paper so [John] can’t put me back” (p.15). The “paper” symbolises every rule and burden that John gave her and now she is saying that she is finally free and there is nothing that they can do to put her back in the same misery. John, the authoritative figure in this story, depicted vulnerable in the end whereas the narrator, creeps over him. This reminds us to what the figure used to do, creeping everywhere thus interpreting the narrator as the figure in the wallpaper is one way to understand this story.
Nonetheless, both stories have similarities in using these key techniques. First, in both stories, both characters are vulnerable over the authoritative figure in the family and drives both characters into madness. In The Haunting of Hill House, Eleanor’s past which involves her mother, is the main reason why she struggles achieving her goal. Her lack of maturity that is caused by her mother makes it tough for her to overcome the problem with her past. This then shown as a projection in several things throughout the story. Like in “The Yellow Wallpaper”, John superiority over his wife is the main reason why the feeling of unhappiness and entrapment come. Although in the beginning the narrator obeys whatever John told her to do, later in the story the repressed feelings that narrator feels are again projected into her “doubling” in the wallpaper. Her “doubling” in the wallpaper somehow helps her to “free” herself from the authoritative figure in the story. Similarly, through repetition of several events, we get the idea that these repetitions are all reflecting Eleanor repressed desires. By using key techniques, parallels, repetition, and “doubling”, both stories manage to convey the message that in these cases, family is the source of confinement. In addition, both characters in the stories end up merging with the house and the wallpaper. Driven by madness, the narrator in “The Yellow Wallpaper” loses her identity and becoming the woman who is trapped behind the wallpaper and in The Haunting of Hill House, Eleanor becomes one with the house. They each commit a shocking act of madness that all based on a single source – family. The narrator creeps over her husband just like what the figure in the wallpaper did in the beginning of the story and Eleanor commits suicide just because she believes Hill House belongs to her.
In conclusion, through parallels and “doubling”, both The Haunting of Hill House and “The Yellow Wallpaper” have managed to convey the message that in this particular era, family is depicted as the source of confinement therefore it is inevitable. In both stories, it says that family could give mass impacts psychologically.