Symbolism in Short Stories

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Setting the Scene for Madness: Symbolism in Short Stories Writing is the illustration of writers’ words flowing into the readers’ imagination. Since most books have no pictures authors use vivid terms to present a description of the setting of a story or a description of their characters. But how does one describe the intangible such as emotion or madness in a story? “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and “Death by Landscape” by Margaret Atwood have symbols, or metaphors, woven into the stories to perceive the condition of madness. Through representation of symbols in their stories Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Margaret Atwood describe what madness feels like and how symbols can make the invisible visible. Symbols in literature serve as representation of something by association or resemblance. Symbols can further mean, in psychological terms, an object or image representing thoughts, feelings or impulses. In “The Yellow Wallpaper” Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s main character is a young married female, circa the late 1800’s telling the story of her depressive state. The first description she gives of her environment “A colonial mansion, a hereditary estate, I would say a haunted house…” suggests a gothic-like setting seemingly dark, gloomy and old (73). She then describes her state of being sick and having been prescribed bed rest. This idea of bed rest further isolates her into the confinement of a single room in the mansion. To describe her feeling I think of a person who is alive and placed in a coffin. It furthers my idea of the character having no possible recovery already given to her death bed. Oppositely, in “Death by Landscape” the main character, Lois, now an elderly lady, confines herself in her condo unable to face the outdoors after having a traumatic event occur in the wilderness. In contrast to “The Yellow

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