The barrier is defined as a fence or an obstacle that prevents movement or access. In literature, the barrier is used symbolically by authors to showcase the physical changes that exist in their stories. Kafka and Gilman in their stories The Metamorphosis and The Yellow Wallpaper respectively use barriers the existing physical changes in the stories. The authors explore barrier as a literary device in their respective stories to depict the existing limitations of movement. Kafka in The Metamorphosis uses the door as the barrier while Gilman uses the wall as the barrier in The Yellow Wallpaper. This paper examines the symbolism of a barrier as employed by Kafka and Gilman in The Metamorphosis and The Yellow Wallpaper, respectively.
In the story The Metamorphosis by Kafka, a door is used to separate Gregor Samsa from his family. The door acts as a barrier that hides Gregor's secret of being a beetle, making it a significant portal in the story (Kafka 10). As an ordinary salesman, Gregor's life was in order, and his focus was his work. However, one morning, everything changed, creating a barrier between him and his family. As a beetle, Gregor was afraid to be seen by his family. Thus, he locked himself in his bedroom with the door being the existing barrier that entrapped him from the rest of the family and the rest of the world (Kafka 15).
In the second story, The Yellow Wallpaper by Gilman, the author takes the reader through the mind of a woman is about to go mad. The reader is taken through the thoughts and the feelings of the woman as she is slowly consumed by her obsession with the yellow wallpaper that hung in her bedroom. In the woman's situation, the wall on which the wallpaper hung is the barrier that entraps her from the outside world. Having dealt with psychosis disorder throughout her life as evident in her narration where she admits that she had more of imagination that most children, the author seems to be dealing with mental illness throughout her entire life (Gilman 59). Behind the walls of the bedroom of the woman, the yellow wallpaper acts as a stimulus transforming her innocent fantasies into dangerous hallucinations, which eventually makes her turn mad (Gilman 64). In this story, the wall acts as a barrier between the woman and the real world. Behind the bedroom walls, the author, through the imagination of the mad woman, creates a different world different from what is happening outside the house. The author utilizes the wall as a barrier between the mad woman and the reality while taking the reader through the changes that the mad woman undergoes until she eventually turns mad.
In the two stories, The Metamorphosis and The Yellow Wallpaper, both the characters Gregor and the mad woman have control over the barriers that exist in their settings. However, due to the condition of the madwoman in The Yellow Wallpaper, she is not aware of the control she has and instead let her imaginations consume her. The two barriers, which are the door, and the wall, presents the physical changes that limit the movements of the two characters confining them in their respective rooms. These barriers are also important in these two stories as they help in hiding the secrets of the characters from the world.
The imagery of the barriers in the two stories, The Metamorphosis, and The Yellow Wallpaper provides limitation of access both physically and psychologically as used by the two authors. The door which separates Gregor and his family is both a physical and psychological barrier (Kafka 20). Logically, a door cannot hinder the family of Gregor from getting into his bedroom. However, the family chooses to respect his right to privacy and refrain from any advances in knowing what is happening to him. The door also acts as a psychological barrier to Gregor, making him think that he cannot get out of his bedroom. However, as small as he is, having changed into a beetle, he can easily pass under the door to the other side of the room. The same situation is witnessed in The Yellow Wallpaper, where the mad woman has been bound into her bedroom physically and psychologically by the walls of the room. The walls in the room prevent her from seeing the outside world that would help her come back to her senses. These walls are physical; however, her focus of the yellow wallpaper makes the walls to be psychological as she chooses to focus on the wallpaper which makes her hallucinate and lose her mind having not fully recovered from her previous mental breakdown.
Often, obstacles that exist between other individuals and us give us a sense of privacy like in the case of Gregor and the woman in The Yellow Wallpapers. However, we often fail to look at the benefits we may have beyond these barriers. In the case of Gregor, he congratulated himself for his cautious habit of locking the doors instead of trying to open them. The Gregor's bedroom door acted as a haven for his secrets of the change in body and voice. However, it would not take long before his family could realize these changes. The same situation is witnessed in the case of the woman in The Yellow Wallpapers the walls felt like confinement to her, but it was not long before her husband returns and find out her situation (Gilman 68).
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. "The Yellow Wallpaper" Literature: A Pocket Anthology. Ed. R. S. Gwynn. 6th ed. Boston: Pearson, 2015. 351. Print
Kafka, Franz. Metamorphosis. S.l.: Blurb, 2019. Print.
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