Symbolism in the short story “Yellow Wallpaper”

Short stories are crafted by authors who have a great imagination. Short stories consist of everything that is involved in novels and books (plot, resonance, and other dynamic components that may be found in a novel, but not to that degree). Do not be confused by the term short story, some short stories are also called novellas which are basically shorter novels. Some short stories or novellas are 20,000 words long and are still considered to be short stories. We can see firsthand the importance and how great short stories are from the two that will be discussed in this paper; “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson English and “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. These stories are great examples of just how short stories can have a plot and all the common characteristics of a novel, but be compiled into a simple novella.

Let’s begin with “The Lottery”. This short story opens with villagers gathering in a town square for names to be drawn out of a wooden box. “The Lottery” is not revealed until well into the story. There it is revealed to the reader that it’s not money that is being won. Instead, a family is chosen each year from this big box of last names. From the family that was drawn, each family member puts their name in a box, from which a name is also to be drawn. In this case, the family consists of a mother, father, and two children. This time, the mother’s name is drawn from the box. Her reward, to stand in the town square and be stoned to death by the local townsmen and women. This short story keeps the reader in suspense throughout the entire tale. It finally forces the reader to make a conclusion, doing everything a novel does, but in shorter form. From the beginning, the reader gets a sense of something quite odd, but never grips what it was. The title “The Lottery” is a distraction to what the ending might really be. It is a surprising and eye-opening story which gives the reader the same effect that a novel might just be compiled into a short story.

The next novel is titled “The Yellow Wallpaper”. In this novel, a crazy, insane doctor forces his “sick” wife to forcibly stay in a room with yellow wallpaper with absolutely nothing to do but stare at the walls. This eventually drives her insane and she records the wallpaper in her mind. She ends up writing in a diary and hiding it to save herself from being considered more “sick”. This crazed act of the husband goes on for a while. He eventually gives her “sickness” a fake name. In time, she begins to believe that she might really be sick, with no one to rescue her. It was a thrilling story throughout which kept the reader in suspense, in my opinion, better than a novel could. That’s what a good short story is all about. In both of these skillfully pieced together short stories written by amazing authors who are now known for these writings, there is suspense from the start. They leave the reader wondering the entire time and eventually leads to a thrilling conclusion. In some cases, these short stories might leave the reader hanging, to form their own conclusions.

These two short stories, along with others, use extremely good imagery and symbols. Symbolism is “the use of symbols to signify ideas and qualities, by giving them symbolic meanings that are different from their literal sense. Symbolism can take different forms. Generally, it is an object representing another, to give an entirely different meaning that is much deeper and more significant” (Symbolism – Examples and Definition of Symbolism, 2017). Basically, to explain a symbol better, it is an object that symbolizes another object of greater meaning or higher importance. Examples of symbolism in “The Lottery” would be that whenever a name is drawn out, the piece of paper that has a black dot in it ties the color black to death or bad things. Examples of symbolism are all over “The Yellow Wallpaper” also. For example, the diary she kept to express her feelings. She could not express them to John (the insane husband/doctor), for fear of being labeled with other illnesses. So, she kept her feelings in the diary.

While reading short stories, the reader may see that they often try to relate somewhat to what actually could be happening in someone’s life. For example, the yellow wallpaper could be tied to someone who feels they have no one to turn to or be comfortable around because of their depression. Therefore, they just become more and more infected. Short stories often have a deeper meaning than just what might be shown on the surface. It’s not hard to see as the reader digs deep and thinks even deeper. My hopes are that anyone reading this essay is motivated to appreciate short stories and see their meaning and purpose. It doesn’t have to be a novel to intrigue the reader into reading and getting a full experience. Anyone that sees the meaning and how deep a short story can actually pull you it can become so much more involved. Maybe this would drive more to read and not be intimidated by big novels that you see on bookshelves in bookstores and libraries. Instead, they might get lost in an amazing short story.

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