September 18, 2013
The Art of Obssession
Within the works by Hawthorne, Gilman, and Wordsworth, there is a recurring theme showing a character fixated on a certain idea. In “The Birthmark” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Aylmer is obsessed with the idea that he can remove the birthmark that is on his wife’s face. In “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the narrator of the story is fixated on figuring out the meaning behind the mysterious wallpaper that is in her room. In “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth, the speaker becomes fixated on his experience with seeing the daffodils, which lead him to a sense of peace. The obsessions seen in “The Birthmark,” “The Yellow Wallpaper,” and “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” all completely fill the minds of the characters who are highlighted, which ultimately will lead these characters to a bitter end, or a sweet peace.
Aylmer, the main character in “The Birthmark,” is a natural philosopher that becomes obsessed with wanting to remove the crimson birthmark off of his wife’s face. He is so fixated that it becomes unbearable for him to look at her without it covered. He says, “I am convinced of the perfect practicability of its removal,” (Hawthorne 469). However, he believes so much that it is great issue, that not even a regular freckle remover would be satisfactory. His obsession leads him to concoct a very dangerous potion for his wife; one that he says cannot fail, “unless my science has deceived me,” (Hawthorne 475). Aylmer’s obsession has caused him to overlook the little things that make for love and for marriage, and as a result, his potion kills his wife. She dies, saying, “Don’t repent…you have rejected the best the earth could offer,” (Hawthorne 477).
Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” tells of the narrator, who becomes obsessed with figuring out what the meaning is behind the mysterious, yellow paper. She says of the paper, “This paper looks to me as if it knew what a vicious influence it had,” (Gilman 390). The idea of the paper clearly has her mind completely, and she only delves deeper and deeper into fixation. Soon, she begins to see a woman in the paper; a woman who creeps around the room and even on the street. “I see her in that long shaded lane, creeping up and down,” (Gilman 396). Eventually, the idea of the woman in the paper encompasses all of the narrator’s thoughts, and she begins to believe that she is one of them. She says, “I’ve got out at last…in spite of you and Jane…and I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back, “ (Gilman 398). The narrator’s husband becomes so horrified with what is happening, the he immediately faints, and she continues to creep over him as he lies on the floor.
As Wordsworth tells so eloquently in his poem, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,” the speaker comes across a field of daffodils, and immediately becomes fixated by the feeling that comes over him when he sees it. “The waves beside them danced, but they/Outdid the sparkling waves in glee,” (Wordsworth 635). He is explaining how the field is even more exhilarating than the crashing, sparkling waves. Of how happy he is, Wordsworth says, “A poet could not but be gay/In such a jocund company,” (Wordsworth 635). He does not realize how much this view has captivated his though until he does other things. “For oft, when on my couch I lie/In vacant or pensive mood…And then my heart with pleasure fills/And dances with the daffodils,” (Wordsworth 635). It is the happiness that he felt when he was captivated by the sight that follows him and brings him peace, even when he is gone from the field.
“The Birthmark,” “The Yellow Wallpaper,” and “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” all portray an obsession of the mind that follows the main characters of each work. At the conclusion of these works, the main characters either obsess to a dreadful end, or find an inner peace with it. While meditating, fixating on a single idea, which is nothing, helps to bring you into a longer meditative state. As I began to fixate on nothing at all, I began to come to a more inner peace, just as the speaker in Wordsworth’s poem was brought to an inner peace from the sight of his beloved daffodil field.