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Though published in different years the following stories; The Yellow Wallpaper, Two Kinds and the Battle Royal have similarities in how some of their characters are haunted, the source of this feeling and the effect it has had on their lives. The paper will compare the situation of the narrator in the Yellow Wallpaper, Jing-Mei in Two Kinds and the young black man in Battle Royal.
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
This is a story a lady who is suffering in her marriage and also from nervous depression. Her husband, who also doubles up as her doctor, belittles her illness and in general her concerns of her condition. He has recommended that she keeps away from any work and from any writing. However, she feels that journaling is a way to relieve her mind which she does though secretly. During the summer vacation, her husband takes her to what she calls a haunted house that has yellow wallpaper in the bedroom that she gets fixated on. The yellow paper haunts her for the rest of the summer as she spends the rest of the summer trying to figure out its patterns a thing that worries her husband and her family members (Gilman).
Two Kinds by Amy Tan
This is a story about a mother and her daughter. Jing-Mei is a first generation American while her mother is a Chinese immigrant. The story is of Jing-Mei reflecting on her childhood and how she was haunted by her mother’s expectations of her life to be a child prodigy. Jing-Mei battles her mother’s efforts to turn her into a child prodigy in America and it results in anger and miscommunication in the mother-daughter relationship. The situation gets so bad that Jing-Mei considers it is better to die than live with her mother (Tan).
The Battle Royale by Ralph Ellison
The Battle Royal is a story about a young black man who finds himself in a staged brawl after he was duped to deliver his high school graduation speech in a hotel ballroom. The young man had just lost his grandfather whose dying words about how to overcome the white men had stuck in his mind and haunted him especially whenever he had triumphs. The young man had hope that delivering his high school graduation speech at the hotel in front of the white audience would be a sign of their acceptance of him. He later on realized that the staged brawl was for the entertainment of the audience (Ellison).
Linking the Three Stories to a Similarity in the Source of the Haunting
The three main characters in the stories have a similarity in the cause of their haunting experience. From the stories, the characters are haunted by the fact they have unfulfilled expectations either from themselves or from their immediate families. These expectations are because the people around the characters do not understand or accept the characters as they are.
The narrator in the yellow wallpaper is one who would rather be writing as she enjoys the exercise and finds it a way to relieve the tension caused by the nervous depression condition she suffers from. The narrator has an imaginative mind but her husband does not recognize and appreciate it and instead recommends that all she should do is rest. The more John, her husband, insists on her resting, the more her mental health deteriorates as evidenced with her fascination with the yellow wallpaper in their bedroom. The narrator spends most nights staring at the wallpaper believing she could see patterns in the wallpaper and wants to understand these patterns.
Jing-Mei is haunted by the fact that her mother will not accept that she is not a child prodigy. Having grown up in China, Jing-Mei’s mother moves to America and discovers that it is a land of opportunity. It is on this discovery that she gets expectations for her child and tries to force them on Jing-Mei. This is done on the assumption that Jing-Mei had the ability to be a child prodigy but without considering her talents and preferences. Jing-Mei’s mother pushes her to try out different activities from acting, intellectual tests, piano lessons and chess. The expectations on Jing-Mei drive her to tricking her piano teacher and in the end thinking that it would be better is she had never been born or if she was dead like her twin sisters that had been left in China when they immigrated to the United States.
The young black man in Battle Royal falls in a similar predicament like the other two characters. He is haunted by the words of his grandfather on how he should live that he instills in himself that acceptance will only be in the form of being endorsed by the white man. The young black man spends most of his days trying to decipher what his grandfather meant and trying to fit the description given by his grandfather that he lost sight of who he was.
The Effect of the Haunting Experience
There are also similarities in the effects of the haunting experience on the characters in the three stories. Due to the haunting experience, the characters are left to live in their own imagination and have suffered alienation due to their haunting experience.
The narrator in the yellow wallpaper is left to live alone in her bedroom for the most of the summer and declines to meet her family when they visit on the 4th of July. Due to being haunted by the restrain to do what she like, the mental health of the narrator in the yellow wallpaper worsens throughout the summer vacation. She becomes fixated on the wallpaper and the patterns she perceives are in it and at the end of the story she is convinced that there was a woman in the wallpaper who exits at the end of the story.
Just like the narrator in the yellow wallpaper, Jing-Mei is haunted by the expectations of her mother to be a child prodigy. Jing-Mei is not interested in the activities her mother suggests and as a result, she ends up tricking her piano teacher and finding ways to fail her mother’s attempts at different activities. The effect of this haunting experience is that it alienates Jing-Mei from her mother and they end up having a difficult relationship which is sad because they have no other family members in America.
The effect of the haunting experience of the young black man is that his obsession with his grandfather’s words blinded him to a dangerous incident where he got hurt and was exposed to indignity by strangers he sought to be accepting of him. Another effect is that he lost himself in the cause of trying to be accepted by the white men. The young man lived a life where he was not able to accept and enjoy his triumphs as his grandfather’s dying words were always haunting him in his successes.
Discussing the Severity of the Hauntings.
The young black man faced the most severe haunting experience. This is because he did not know himself and lived in the shadow of his grandfather’s words. The narrator in the yellow wallpaper and Jing-Mei had an understanding of who they were and fought to keep their personality even when it drove them to dark places. The narrator of the Battle Royal did not know who he was and that is the reason he faced the troubles he got trying to get acceptance from strangers.
The narrator in the yellow wallpaper faced the second severe haunting as she lost her mental health over it. Being held back from doing what she loved and enjoyed left her in a cocoon where all she did was state at hideous wallpaper in her room. From this, she ended up not fulfilling her dreams of being a writer and having deteriorating mental health.
The least severe haunting experience was Jing-Mei’s. Though she had a difficult relationship with her mother, she still fought to keep her personality. She still tried at all her mother’s suggestions and in the end, she was able to understand her mother’s wishes.
The three stories highlight the difficulties of acceptance of oneself and from the society on individuals. The stories should be used to instill the message of acceptance for the different people within the societies to avoid the effects faced by the characters in the stories.
List of References
Ellison, Ralph. Novel Guide For Invisible Man By Ralph Ellison. Scott, Foresman, 1989.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “The Yellow Wallpaper”. The New England Magazine, 1892.