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Ananya Sasaru

Department of English
University of Calcutta
Author God and The Madwoman in the attic:
Associating "The Yellow Wallpaper" and
"Through a Glass Darkly"
My paper attempts to undertake a comparative study of Charlotte Perkins Gilmans
short story "The Yellow Wallpaper" (1889) and a film from Ingmar Bergmans
God trilogy "Through a Glass Darkly" (1961). Revolving round the plight of a
woman, both the texts trace their gradual mental breakdown as they struggle to
establish an alternative to the form and order of patriarchy. Represented as
childlike and dysfunctional, the predicament of the women protagonists - Jane (in
The Yellow Wallpaper) and Karin (in Through a Glass Darkly) lies in finding their
subjectivity, a revolt always forestalled by a superior competent authority. The
wallpaper, a fruitful metaphor for madness, sexual inequality and the womans
unconscious also comes to symbolize this opposition between the power regime
that subjects them and their imaginative revolt. My paper tries to bring out the
complex social and economic conditions running throughout both the texts, that
drive the central female characters, - and potentially all women to madness.
However, despite the surface resemblances the two stories differ at a crucial point
which is never identified as such and to which my paper shall return. While in
Gilmans narrative, the creeping woman steps over the patriarchal figure of the
husband as she leaves his authoritative voice in shambles, in Bergmans film,
Karin submits to the patriarchal order as she decides to return to the asylum.
After the horrifying encounter with the spider like God, Karin willingly submits
and put on her sunglass, shutting out all the light she has so desperstely sought

throughout the film. Her surrender is thus complete and ultimately fatal whereas
Gilman allows the unresolved disturbance to persist, for patriarchy, in her story is
only temporarily unconscious and the narrator's escape compromised. It is in this
final treatment of the madwoman where lies the difference in the perspective of
the radical feminist Gilman and the great film maker Bergman. My research shall
explore more on the comparisons and contrasts with central to the female
protagonists and their confrontation with the Author God.

Bio-note: Ananya Sasaru has completed her B.A. (Honours in English) from
Bethune College and is pursuing Masters (2nd year) in English from The
University of Calcutta.