An Analysis of Body Language in The Bald Soprano

Body language is an important part in any production because it can help communicate the tone to the audience. In the UMF production of The Bald Soprano, it was used to maintain a level of pseudo-serious comedy. UMF students put on the play with a clear comedic angle, which was enhanced by the kinds of body language used.

The first moment where body language stood out to me was the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Martin. It is not noted in the written play, but on stage, the actors mimicked the body language of each other. For example, when Mr. Martin said a line and took a step forward, Mrs. Martin would say her line and take a step forward as well. They acted as mirrors of each other, which was an interesting addition to their complicated relationship. It is also a great use of body language to further exaggerate that they are essentially copying what the other says as well.

Watching carefully, I noticed that there was a place where the exact mirroring broke off, which makes sense in the context of what they were saying. All along, everything had been the same. They were in the same train car, from the same town, and lived in the same place. When they started talking about the child, Alice, things began to differentiate. Mr. Martin pointed at Mrs. Martin, but then she only proceeded to hold her arm out, etc. This was a subtle indication through body language that things were not truly the same, as Mary points out. They do not have the same daughter and are not who they each think they are. It’s amazing that the actors were able to indicate these differences on such a minute level.

While no other particular instance of body language displayed such critical information as this, there were other moments that were used to their advantage. Mrs. Smith seems like a drab character on paper, and even at the beginning of the UMF production. She, like the rest of the characters, talk about nothing of importance. However, when she opens the door to her home when the doorbell rings, she does so in such a dramatic way. She continues to have slightly over exaggerated body motions, especially after the Fire Chief enters. This use of body language displays how her character is secretly craving drama and attention that neither her husband nor lifestyle can give her.

The Fire Chief himself also used body language to his advantage. The actor onstage made the character come to life as he walked around like he owned the place. The Fire Chief came off as very confident and as someone who uses the knowledge of their attractive qualities to their advantage. When he interacted with Mary on the table in the front, he was clearly very attracted to her in an exaggerated way. The fact that Mary acted slightly surprised when the Fire Chief touches her created an awkward kind of comedy that was nonetheless successful.

The Bald Soprano reads as a confusing, boring play on paper, but can truly come to life when acted out onstage. The use of body language throughout the production lent to both its comedy and my personal understanding of the play.

Reaction to “The Bald Soprano”

 

I attended the Sunday matinee for “The Bald Soprano”. I was actually surprised at how much I found myself enjoying it. One thing that kind of stood out to me was the setting. It for the most part, it looked somewhat like a kind of fancy house, what with a leather sofa and a large clock, and portraits of our characters. But the wall stood out to me. It was blue, and didn’t seem to match the rest of our setting at all. Now, it could easily just be a stretch, but I thought it added a little something to the absurdity of the play. Since nothing else in the play really seems to connect, maybe the wall doesn’t connect with the rest of the background.

I particularly enjoyed Mr. and Mrs. Martin’s monotone dialogue in their first interaction. I hadn’t actually pictured them speaking like that to each other, but it added something comical to their words. Overall, the dialogue was still difficult to follow. I realize that the point is to not make any sense, but actually hearing it just made me understand that I was never going to understand what they were talking about.

In relation to dialogue, I thought the switch from British culture to American culture was interesting. I can’t remember a lot of specifics, but some of the things (like the food choices) might have actually been the same. And they still said “bloody” a few times, definitely a British term. So whether that was either an oversight or deliberately to add to confusion, I’m not entirely sure. I know that they were at least in the suburbs, and quite proud of drinking American water.

Another thing that I thought was made even more absurd was actually hearing the clock chime 20+ times. Several times. It’s one thing to read that it chimes a lot, but hearing it is both funny and unsettling. To add to how wacky the clock’s features were, it ended up shifting and slamming and opening up. I might have just missed it while reading, but I’m not sure I remembered that from the original play.

Speaking of unsettling, the Fire Chief and Maid were a little too convincing. Groping and ear biting, they really sold it. I had underestimated how weird this play was going to be, but they went there. Then again, the point of the play is absurdity, so it actually fits quite well. How many regular plays have such explicit displays of expression on stage?

While I thought the ending was funny, part of it seemed borderline scary. The actors were screaming and moving around all over the place, the lighting was changing, everything was in full discord. It was like watching a horror movie with people frantically scrambling around and screeching. Perhaps even af foreign horror movie, since I had no idea what they were talking about.

The Bald Soprano: Play vs. Script

To say that the play [t]he Bald Soprano was strange would be a understatement, as it was the most bizarre and outlandish script I’ve yet to read. There seemed to be no moral or point to the story, there was no clear perception of time and the characters quickly seemed to lose what little sanity they had had. Needless to say, reading the script was a unique experience. Attending a live action performance of the script, however, was a different experience entirely on it’s own.

UMF’s interpretation and representation of [t]he Bald Soprano was interesting as they portrayed the play to be much more comical then I had originally perceived it to be. I enjoyed their representation of Mr. Martin, Mrs. Smith and Mary the most. When I had first read the play I had envisioned Mr. Martin as being a very plain and boring man, at least as plain and boring as a character in this story could be. Instead he was represented as, in my opinion, a somewhat nervous character whose blatant discomfort added humor to the ‘plot’. The scene I most enjoyed with Mr. Martin was the monotone interaction between him and Mrs. Martin. Not only was this entire reaction extremely hilarious, it was also much more animated then I had originally interpreted. While reading this scene I had pictured the two characters sitting side by side while they conversed. The fact that the characters were given the chance to navigate the stage and mirror one another’s actions made the entire scene all the more comical. While the portrayal of Mr. Martin was intriguing, I enjoyed Mrs. Smith and Mary much more.

In the written play I interpreted Mrs. Smith as a snobby woman who seemed to enjoy hearing herself speak, even if she really had nothing significant to say. The actress’s portrayal of Mrs. Smith was phenomenal as they made her into a dramatist who expressed herself through grandiose gestures and exuberant behavior. The actress projected her lines in a clear and confident, or perhaps obnoxious, tone while also over-exaggerating almost every action that she conducted. These attitudes made the character appear more in-depth, but only when compared to her alter ego in the script. All of these actions combined together transformed a character, whom I had originally perceived as snobbish and dull, into a comical and slightly more layered individual. Her interactions with the other characters, as well as her reactions, added a level of humor that the play deeply needed. However, the character that I enjoyed the most in the play was Mary.

Mary had a pretty insignificant role in the script, (but what significance did any of the characters have?), as her main job was to inform the audience of the identity crisis that Mr. and Mrs. Martin were unaware of. But, between the actress’s animated and, what I would call, personal portrayal, as well as her hilarious exchange with the Fire Chief, have combined to create another character that came to life on the stage. The actress gave her a sassy yet comical attitude that I had initially not imagined the character as having. Her passionate and exaggerated interaction with the Fire Chief was, without a doubt, the highlight of the play in my opinion- though I also really enjoyed her “Sherlock Holmes” moment. Overall, the actress’s posture, tone, and facial expressions are what ultimately turned this character into a comical and perhaps slightly more complex character.

Being able to visually see the script being acted out made my comprehension of the script much more clear, which in turn enable me to enjoy the production. Between the added comedy, the set design, the lighting, and the actors I was able to connect this play to a number of theories that we have been covering in class. While I would also like to see the play without the added comedy aspect, just to compare my experiences and interpretations, I very much enjoyed this production. My advice to any viewers who wish to see this play is simple; read the script beforehand. The pre-exposure to the bizarre and unfamiliar nature of this production will help you to, hopefully, have a better understanding, or at the very least, a better appreciation of the show.

Jonas Maines in “The Bald Soprano”

The Bald Soprano was without a doubt, the most interesting play I’ve seen. Right from the beginning, I was laughing about the extended clock bells and lack of talking, then laughing at Keith’s (I don’t remember his last name), clicking of his tongue as his response to everything his wife said. It’s interesting though, I was laughing, the girl beside me was laughing, but my boyfriend (on the other side of me), had a completely solemn face. I don’t think he laughed once. It made me think of the conversation we had in class about the different audiences one will experience when seeing the show, but I didn’t realize how polar opposite the two were, until they were both directly beside me. When I read the play, I didn’t find much humor in it, and to be honest, I thought it was kind of dumb and pointless. I went into the show thinking it would be the same way, and I would have wasted $5 and 53 minutes of my Friday night. Boy, was I wrong.

I left the theatre confused as to what I just watched. My boyfriend said, “there’s no point” but that’s not an acceptable answer in my book. The girl beside me said this was her second time seeing the performance, and she said she understood it more after the second time. My friend, Jonas Maines, played the fire chief, which I found to be one of the most interesting roles in the play (the maid being my favorite). I couldn’t help but wonder what he thought about the play, and what he had to say about it, so out of curiosity on how the actors may feel about this bizarre play, I thought I would ask him a few questions about The Bald Soprano. 

Q1: What do you think the plot of The Bald Soprano is

Jonas: The Bald Soprano is an absurdist comedy that mocks and satirizes stiff upper class societal customs.

Q2: What made you want to play the part of the fire chief?

Jonas: I think the fire chief has this unwavering coolness about him, nothing can shake him. I think that is some of the funniest comedy, when something should get to a character and he isn’t affected at all.

Q3: Has your impression of the play changed since you first read/heard it and when you acted in it?

Jonas: I think that The Bald Soprano is a play that evolves as you go through the process- actors discover new moments, as a cast we find moments that we hadn’t noticed before, and I think in a play where there are so many crazy and out there lines, it is really easy to find a lot of those moments.

Q4: What’s your favorite part of the play?

Jonas: My personal favorite part of the play is probably the doorbell scene, because it is so obviously a play on the customs related to having a good house party, or rather in this case, being a good host. I think it is a moment that a lot of people can relate to, it is a really simple thing but I think that is what makes it so good.

The Awkward Amusement of The Bald Soprano

Eugene Ionesco’s “The Bald Soprano” is just as bizarre to watch as it is to read. However, even though the play retains its oddness factor when moved from the page onto the stage, the experience of seeing it performed is much different from the experience of reading the script. This most likely comes from the added visual aspect of viewing the play, and seeing how the actors choose to move and utilize the space on stage.

One of the most prominent scenes in which this is exemplified is the initial conversation between Mr. and Mrs. Martin, when the couple are trying to figure out where they’ve seen each other before. While the monotonous voices are similar to what is seen in the script, it appears very different on the stage. For example, in this production there was a lot more movement between the two actors than what was mentioned in the script. The couple’s movements often mirrored each other, and this highlighted the many repetitive lines in the conversation. The action made the discussion more interesting to watch as well, and captured the audience’s attention. The identical movements of the characters combined with their blank expressions and mechanical way of speaking highlighted the absurdity of the situation, often eliciting laughter from the viewers.

The comedic aspects of this scene did not end there. Towards the end of the conversation, Mr. and Mrs. Martin kneel on the arms of the couch, reach towards each other, and collapse dramatically down onto the sofa. These actions were not a part of the script, but they were quite entertaining to watch. The two remained laying awkwardly on the couch for the 29 chimes, and the length served to make the audience feel rather uncomfortable after their amusement at the preceding activities. This mix of mirth and discomfort was quite a common occurrence while viewing the play, whereas while reading the script often highlighted feelings of confusion instead.

Another part of the play that was both funny and uncomfortable was the interactions between the Fire Chief and Mary, the maid. While in the script it just states that Mary throws herself at the Fire Chief, it was much more awkward and prolonged in the play. The discomfort of the other characters is shared by the audience, with the added embarrassed amusement on the part of the viewers. The hilarity is increased with the dramatic gestures that accompany the recitation of “The Fire” poem, culminating with the maid being carried off stage by Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

The awkwardly comedic tone of this play persists through to the end, which consists of the Smiths and the Martins running around screaming nonsense at each other. While this was just plain bizarre to read in the script, watching the characters move around the stage while yelling weird phrases at each other was much more entertaining. The audience was clearly confused about what was going on, but still seemed to find the spectacle rather funny.

In all of the above instances, the actions and movements of the actors added something to the viewing experience that was not present when simply reading the script. The way that the actors moved and spoke added a much more amusing note to the play, causing it to be entertaining as well as baffling.

Extensive Humor in the Bald Soprano Production

When I read the book I found that I had trouble finding it humorous and I just wanted to get through it. The production remedied this for me by providing an over-the-top comical performance that was hard not to laugh at.The actions they chose, such as falling over the couch or crawling over the top, allowed me to enjoy it and find the amusement that was supposed to be there. This also extended the intended absurdity that the play was meant to represent. These over-the-top actions also made the play easier to follow and understand, even though it was not meant to be understood. It gave me a more coherent feeling of how it was supposed to make me feel. The script left me confused and annoyed at the absurdity; it was too stupid to be funny. Bringing the dialogue to laugh and adding actions and reactions that I didn’t recall from the script added sustenance that I didn’t know I required from the play.

One moment that I recalled as vastly different from the script was the moment when the clock broke. In the play it was a much more dramatic moment, and perhaps one of the most. It served as an important turning point in the play, making the characters become even more absurd.

The play also gave me a better understanding of the characters and their relation, or lack of, to one another. I found it interesting that in each couple there seemed to be one serious person and the other more comedic. Mr. Martin and Mrs. Smith served as the comedic relief of the couples, with their counterparts remained, for the most part, more serious. Their actions also gave you the sense of a posh, lavish, and extravagant air about the place.

The fireman also became a more distinguishable character and served as the “sane” character, in comparison to everyone else. He was put up on a pedestal and highlighted as the hero, which was especially ironic due to his lack of heroic actions. He stood as the heroic figure among them in name and status only, and they revered him merely for his job title. He wasn’t a terribly wonderful person, but his life was a bit less ordinary that’s why he stood out so much and took the center stage.

One change that made the play interesting was the choice to change the setting to an American one over an English one. This was done merely through the dialogue, switching English ____ with American _____. It was my understanding that this was meant to make the play feel more universal and applicable, but to me it almost served as an entirely different satire on American society. The original may have served as a satirical view on England, but keeping the “Englishness” of the play and changing the setting allowed the satire to become much different. It satirized our own sense of pride, wealth, and accomplishment that we carry around with us and perhaps how we believe we are the greatest.

 

“The Uncanny” In The Prisoner Of Azkaban

In Sigmund Freud’s essay, “The Uncanny,” he says within the middle portion of his essay that, “I will say at once that both courses lead to the same result: the uncanny is that class of the frightening which leads back to what is known of old and long familiar.” Freud aims throughout his essay, to analyze this theme of our unconscious reminding us of our repressions. Freud discusses an idea he refers to as, “heimlich,” and its opposite “unheimlich.” Freud explains how heimlich in turn “becomes to be unheimlich,” and its so, because “on one hand it means what is familiar and agreeable, and on the other, what is concealed and kept out of sight.” (826) Freud ends this section of his essay by concluding, that “everything is unheimlich that ought to have remained secret and hidden but has come to light.” With this comes the input of this theory to J.K Rowling’s The Prisoner Of Azkaban.

The general feeling of uneasy is what makes the Harry Potter series what it is. Harry has so much that he doesn’t know, and its this crucial aspect of uncanniness, that creates a very dark, mysterious feel to the entire series. The danger feeling of unease, and imminent danger weighs heavy throughout the entire storyline. I believe J.K Rowling had some sort of background knowledge about this technique of illustrating uncanniness within her story. The audience is made to believe that the dementors are exactly what they are said to be, that being the protectors of Azkaban. Harry isn’t the only individual who is being conditioned here. Harry has many experiences with the dementors that proves the opposite of what is being conditioned upon him. The dementors serve as the obvious contradiction that Freud discussed above. The dementors on one side, demonstrate something seemingly harmless, but when evidence proves otherwise, they become something beyond what we are told. The dementors become the unconscious repressions that Harry struggles with throughout the entire series. The dementors although a significant illustration of the uncanny, are not the only example.

HarryPotter_PM_B3C20M2_HarryAndSiriusSurroundedByDementorsByTheLake_Moments.jpg

Another key aspect of uncanniness throughout the story can be seen through the reveal of Sirius Black. He is a prisoner to Harry, and the audience, but just like the twist with the dementors, there’s a twist here as well. Sirius is revealed as an actually good natured guy as well as a bigger reveal of being Harry’s godfather. What’s also revealed is that Sirius is also an Animagus. It’s Siriu’s presumed “bad nature,” that sets the tone for the heimlich/unheimlich effect. Everyone fears this man, but he in fact is of good nature, and as a result becomes a close ally to Harry. The illustration of the uncanny here, is within the character of Sirius Black, and his contradictory portrayal. Like a lot of aspects throughout the series though, the exact opposite is later revealed, and the plot changes in this way. 0a4a7df0-e227-0133-1faa-0e1a8cd64d33

Of course there are many more examples of uncanniness through the novel, and the entire series, but these two struck me as the most significant within the framework of this particular novel. This brings me back to my introduction, and ties into my conclusion when I say that, I believe J.K Rowling was aware of the concept of uncanniness when writing the novel. There are too many illustrations of uncanniness for it to be merely coincidence. I want to conclude the blog by saying how the series is without a doubt cut short of it’s true nature, and potential without the input of uncanniness and eeriness. It’s this factor that makes the series such an enjoyable experience. 45f2e5192d87ae6f01541dc87a744365.jpg

 

To Boldly Go: A Queer and Feminist Reading of Spock in “Star Trek”

One of the key ideas surrounding queer studies is the exploration of non-normative sexuality. That is, sexuality that falls outside of the cultural norm of heterosexuality and heterosexual behavior. Whether focusing specifically on homosexuality, or delving into the vastly complex realms of queerness, gender identity or gender fluidity, queer studies approaches human sexuality as a matchless spectrum of action, emotion, and desire. In a famously vulnerable episode of Star Trek, we’re treated to a rare look at the sexual identity of Spock, the chief science officer and second-in-command of the Federation Starship Enterprise.

In this episode, Spock is essentially in heat, desperate to return to his home planet to marry and consummate before his condition kills him. It is revealed to us that Spock is in the throes of pon farr, a natural process for Vulcan males, one that recurs every seven years and will in fact kill him if he is not able to mate. Spock is essentially going through an estrous cycle, albeit a particularly voracious one. This struck me as being open to queer interpretation. To humans, a man experiencing an estrous cycle is a foreign concept, as the estrous cycle is limited only to females of a given mammalian species. Queerness is all about non-normative sexuality, and Spock’s grappling with pon farr is as non-normative as it gets. Not only is he not dealing with typical male biology, he’s not even approaching this from the standpoint of a human.

By experiencing pon farr, Spock is deviating from the established gender models of human sexuality. Judith Butler proposes that humans “build models of gender through repetition” (191). In other words, experiencing a certain gender norm over and over again “produces a taken-for-granted idea that certain ways are natural and right” (191). By our default understanding of male and female sexuality, Spock’s mating ritual seems strange, foreign; indeed, it seems queer. The thought of a man’s body attacking him for seven days, forcing him to mate or die, is quite fantastic to anyone with a basic understanding of mammalian sexuality. Spock is breaking those “models of gender” by succumbing to a process which is natural to a Vulcan observer, but wholly unnatural to a human.

Spock’s situation also drops into the realm of feminist study, especially surrounding role reversal and “good” or “bad” feminist depictions. In this episode, Spock is essentially taking on the role of a woman (in human terms, at least). He’s in heat, in desperate need of a mate, and completely out of control when it comes to his needs and desires. The presence of these stereotypical traits of a human woman raises another question: is Spock a “bad” character, and Star Trek a “bad” TV program by portraying Spock, who is exhibiting the characteristics of a human woman, as weak and out of control? In his essay on feminism, Robert Dale Parker invokes the work of Dorothy Parker and Ernest Hemingway to illustrate sexism in literature. Parker’s protagonist in “A Telephone Call” is a meek, pathetic woman obsessing over a call from her lover. She is quite an empty character, and Parker reminds us that “the desperate narrator has made herself depend entirely on a man’s affection” (165). The same goes for Brett Ashley, the unwieldy femme fatale of Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises”. In the novel, Brett is nothing more than “a mere sex object” who “makes a mess of her life” (165).

At one point or another, Spock embodies every one of these negative female stereotypes. His role is to mate with a female Vulcan, he is entirely dependent on this occurrence to live, and he seems to have lost complete control of his emotions and, indeed, his life. By modern feminist standards, Spock miserably fails the test of a dynamic, independent character, reduced instead to fulfill the stereotypical gender role he has fallen into.

Queer Theory and Buffy the Vampire Slayer

As we watched the “Angel” episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I became increasingly sure that there was a lot to be done with queer theory with this episode in particular. While there were certainly aspects of feminist theory, and the uncanny and unhomely within this episode I found myself primarily focused upon the threads of queer theory that I was seeing.

Angel is a vampire, but he is also one with a soul and with the ability to feel remorse for his actions. He is introduced as a handsome, older man who appears to be ‘normal’. His presence is a non-threatening one and he even helps save Buffy from a situation that was quickly going downhill. He seems to have assimilated almost perfectly to the human world and passes as human with ease. While he still needs to drink blood and needs to be invited in order to enter a home, he works hard to repress his inner urges and desires. The photo below is how Angel typically looks and further proves just how ‘normal’ he appears to be.

Image result for angel buffy the vampire slayer

He has a soul and a conscience but his inner desires are still there. They don’t go away because he has assimilated. He tries to be as human as possible and when Darla enters his makeshift home, she calls him out on this. She talks about how different he is from when they first met and how hard he is trying to be human. She mocks him for living above ground and even says that he will never be human. No matter how hard he tries, Angel will always be “the other”. To this, Angel responds with something along the lines of him not being like vampires either. This acts as a blatant denial of he is at the fundamental and most basic level. Furthermore, when Angel does act upon his inner desires, his entire face shifts. The angelic exterior is replaced with something foreign and unwelcome. This happens two times in the episode, once when he kisses Buffy and secondly when he is near Buffy’s bleeding mother. It seems important, and noncoinciedental,  that both times he shifts are related to moments of  repressed physical desire.

There are few different ways in which this relates to queer theory. Firstly, there is the fact that in Buffy the Vampire Slayer there are humans and there are vampires. The vampires are the “other” and are met with suspicion and viewed as threatening. As the “other” vampires aren’t the norm and most ‘people’ are assumed to be human. This is similar to heteronormativity and the ways in which people are assumed to be straight until it is proven otherwise. As Parker states, “compulsory heterosexuality refers to the impression, explicit or implicit, that people should be heterosexual or else something is wrong with them.” (Parker 187) If we apply this thinking to Buffy, we can see that there are explicit and implicit ideas that people should be human and that if they aren’t, they are a problem.  I recognize that it might seem like a stretch, but there is a longstanding history of vampires/werewolves and paranormal creatures in general acting as metaphors for homosexuality or representing the struggles that lgbtq+ individuals face. It doesn’t seem completely out of the question that this would be the case in Buffy.

Furthermore, there is the fact that much of this episode is about Angel’s repression of desires, yearning to assimilate and the shift that happens when he acts upon or is faced with physical desire. These all directly relate to queer theory as a significant part of queer theory is “thinking about the way that, across history, cultures have understood or repressed queer acts, enacted queer identities, or abused or denied the existence of queer people.” (Parker 185) Within this episode, there is the clear repression of queer acts and the denial of one’s own identity as well as abuse regarding identity.

There is also the literary closet within this episode. Angel’s apartment is a dark and rather dingy place where he is completely isolated. It is also where he stores the blood that he needs to drink in order to survive. His apartment acts as the literary closet particularly because the closet acts as a way for people “[to] keep their queer desires private rather than public.” (Parker 201) It is only here that he can feed. His desires can only exist within this private place away from the outside world.

While the actual plot of the episode involves the heterosexual relationship between Buffy and Angel, there are a variety of aspects about the episode that lead to a queer reading of it. This episode contains so much repression, denial, inner desires that can’t be acted upon, and these are all so heavily intertwined with queer theory.

Feminism and The Yellow Wall-Paper

Charlotte Perkins Stetson is certainly releasing a feminist argument within The Yellow Wall-Paper.  Stetson begins her text by giving the reader a glimpse into what is happening to the narrator.  The narrator is obviously sick, or believed to be so by her physician husband.  She asks the reader several times, “what can one do?” (Stetson, 647-648).  This verbally displays the helplessness that the narrator feels as a woman who is being oppressed.  Her husband denies her of her passion to write and of her autonomy from the very start of the text.  She is powerless and helpless in challenging his male authority.

Prior to women leading public lives, a common belief that men held was that by limiting women to the confinements of a home, they were protecting them from moral corruption and thus doing them a favor (Harman).  It was in their best interest to allow their husband to decide what was good for them.  Unfortunately, many women at first accepted such limitations, but after repeatedly being exposed to aspects of public life, women began to demand autonomy. Essentially, this patriarchal system that allows men to confine women is the very issue being addressed within The Yellow Wall-Paper. “At first her meant to repaper the room, but afterwards he said that I was letting it get the better of me, and that nothing was worse for a nervous patient that to give way to such fancies.” (Stetson, 649).  This passage shows the male authority that the narrator’s husband has over her.  It also shows perfectly the idea that confinement is better for her, and that as a man in authority, he knows inherently what is better for the narrator than she does.

I would like to discuss one feminist theory, referred to as “images of women” (Parker, 151).  This theory suggests that if a woman is shown to be good, then the work is a good work.  In the same way, if the woman is not given a positive representation, then the work is not good (Parker, 152).  This idea that a woman must remain “good” is limiting and arguably the reason why the narrator is brought away to this house to begin with.  At first the narrator is repulsed by the appearance of the yellow paper; however, as she continues on with her story she admits that “I’m getting really fond of the room in spite of the wallpaper. Perhaps because of the wallpaper.” (Stetson, 650).  This goes back to the initial idea that men confined women in order to help them and that at first, women passively accepted this.  Here we have the narrator embracing the wallpaper that confines her, beginning to think that maybe it is good for her.

There’s a tendency among men to talk down on women, to try to teach them and insist that they know more about her than she could possibly understand herself.  This issue is seen in John constantly trying to convince the narrator that she is sick.  This behavior on his part is arguably what makes her sick.   The narrator is not acting how a “good” woman should, and consequentially she is brought to this home as an opportunity to recover.  John is the only one who sees the sickness at first; however, the longer she remains captive within the house and stripped of her voice, the more insane she becomes.  There is a constant fight between what she knows to be true to herself and what John tells her is true.  This fight against patriarchy for her autonomy is what drives her to the point of insanity.  By the end of the text, we see that she is the woman within the wallpaper.  When she finds her voice and frees herself, it is John who passes out; however, she is now shown to be more like an animal than a woman.

The confinements placed on women is what leads to the narrators decline in health.  She now has her freedom, but she has gone insane trying to achieve it.

Harman, Barbara Leah. “In Promiscuous Company: Female Public Appearance in Elizabeth Gaskell’s “North and South”.” Victorian Studies 31, no. 3. Indiana University Press, Spring 1988: 351-374.

Parker, Robert Dale. How to Interpret Literature: Critical Theory for Literary and Cultural Studies. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.  Print.

Stetson, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wall-Paper. 647-656.