When the woman gets ‘beyond’ the wallpaper, it symbolises Gilman defying the power that men wielded over women, in order to be able to write again. However, Gilman supplies a different fate for her narrator, whose poignant triumph over the wallpaper actually symbolise her insanity. Shelley adopts the same idea and it is only once Victor conquers the accepted limitations of human capacity that he realises his mistake. In ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ the female narrator is suffering from post natal depression and schizophrenia.
This leads to her fragmentation of identity; she believes herself to be both the woman confined to her bed and the woman ‘creeping’ inside the nauseating wallpaper. The wallpaper is the canvas on which her illness is played out. As the woman becomes increasingly confused of her own identity and insanity begins to engulf her, her fascination with the wallpaper intensifies. Representative of this is her remark that there are “a great many women” behind the wallpaper. The lexis used to describe the wallpaper- ‘lurid’, ‘sickly’ and ‘revolting’- is also symbolic of her view of her fragmented self.
It is not be the wallpaper which repulses her, but an aspect of her identity, the one eerily creeping around her which she hates. This detested fragment of her identity is that which makes her incapable of fulfilling her role as mother to her baby, as all she can do is cry all the time. The narrator in ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ is haunted by her fragmented self which she sees everywhere. Similarly, Victor is fragmented into characters although the most obvious doppelganger is the monster. Victor’s monster is his offspring and a doppelganger of himself, an intrinsic part of his own character which he resents.
In Chapter V, Victor remarks that a “cold dew covered my forehead, my teeth chattered, and every limb became convulsed”. The repetition of ‘convulse’ associates Victor with the monster, whose limbs convulse when he is coming to life. Victor is also fragmented into the characters of the angelic Elizabeth, whose physical beauty mirrors his own; Henry, whose eager pursuit of science reminds him of the person he used to be; and William, his five year old brother whose “laughing blue eyes, dark eyelashes and curling hair”, are a stark contrast to the monster’s yellow eyes and grey skin.
In Frankenstein, once the monster has come to life, Victor denies the responsibility he has accrued upon himself in behaving as a ‘Modern Prometheus’. In Chapter V he exclaims “I threw the door forcibly open, as children are accustomed to do when they expect a spectre to stand in waiting for them on the other side. ” Victor is thus displaying the childlike side of his identity which lacks the necessary responsibility. Having exclaimed that “a new species would bless me as its creator” he then flees responsibility and like the doppelganger of his own monster, is isolated from society.
This childlike fragment is reinforced when Victor’s creation of the monster has killed the jovial William within him, yet in a palpable fragmentation of his identity, he retains a childish irresponsibility and defiance. Victor begins to hate himself as much as he hates his creation for he sees the monster as a doppelganger of himself and this means that though “not in deed, but in effect [he is] the true murderer. ” Both Victor and the woman in ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ display symptoms of insanity. The woman becomes mad because of her isolation, the medication which she is given to get over her illness.
She then begins to envision and become haunted by herself. In contrast, Victor turns mad because of his social fragmentation, initiated with his creation of the monster. He fantasises in Chapter V, “I thought I saw the dreaded spectre glide into the room…. Oh save me! save me! I imagined that the monster seized me. ” Walton describes Victor as having “an expression of wildness, and even madness. ” Similarly the narrator’s hysteria in ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ causes her to fantasise not only herself, but of strings of toadstools and fungus multiplying across the wallpaper.
In ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ the narrator comments that upon her “a dear baby” but she is still unable to look after him. Victor Frankenstein feels great remorse that he abandons and resents his creation, but he too is powerless to love it. These two characters bitterly regret their inability to fulfil their parental role and remain caught between social roles; as a previously independent human being and as one now responsible for the welfare of another life. Their incapability to decisively adapt to either social role leads to their downfall.
The only way Victor can now be at peace is “when he composes his shattered spirit to peace” through death, thus completing the cyclical birth myth. Victor’s social fragmentation has led him away from the “glorious creature” he once was and he is all too aware of “the greatness of his fall. “