Contributing Factors for the Degradation in Mental Illness from "The Yellow Wallpaper" and "Bartleby the Scrivenor"

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Melissa Mills
Compare/Contrast
October 5, 2011
Intro to Lit. MW 3:00

Contributing Factors for the Degradation in Mental Illness of the
Nameless Narrator and Bartleby
Until the late 1800’s when psychoanalysis was introduced, there was little to no distinction between classifications of mental illness. The female protagonist in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Bartleby of Herman Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivenor” are both characters that seem to suffer from depression. Gilman’s narrator suffers from a ‘temporary nervous depression—a slight hysterical tendency’ that regresses into insanity and irrational behavior as Bartley is unmotivated, passive resistant and reticent. The regressing mental illnesses of the
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Bartleby can also contribute oppression from a previous job as a Dead Letter Office worker in which one can assume would contribute to depression and possibly fear. Therefore, the nameless narrator and Bartleby’s oppression is a possible aspect in contributing to their mental illness.
Similarly, the narrator of “The Yellow Wallpaper” and the character Bartleby both experience a state of isolation that could contribute to their mental illnesses, however, Gilman’s narrator is suffocated by the coerced isolation by John, and yet Bartleby’s isolation is a product of his own free-will. Gilman’s protagonist is locked in a top floor room with bars on the window and minimal, controlled social interactions and forced feedings. She is isolated from true expression to her husband for fear of his thoughts about her. This isolation and repressing seems to bring about the obsession to decode the wall paper, hallucinations about a woman trying to escape the multi-layered print and irrational thoughts that she is the woman that needs to get out; all indicate mental illness. Melville’s Bartleby isolates himself by not communicating his intentions or responding, refusing assistance and exhibiting inaction in his life. Isolation can also be seen in this story when Bartleby is imprisoned for failing to comply with authority in removing himself from the law office building in

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