Despite the fact that the subject was assigned as one of our regular assignments, I felt a strong attachment to the three short stories because of their entertaining quality, simplistic use of words, and infinite possibilities for analysis. The essay writing instructions were also flexible since the teacher gave us the option of doing our study in one of two ways. The flow of thoughts in the stories captivated me, and I read them over and over again, even narrating them to my siblings.
After gaining an understanding of the subject, I conducted research at our school and local libraries. I found earlier versions of the stories that were written in slightly different English versions and also did some research on the authors in order to understand their perspectives. The information about the authors came mostly from the internet sources. I also found a film based on _x0093_In a Grove_x0094_ by Ryunosuke Akutagawa. It was equally fascinating to see the characters come to life.
While conducting my research, I was reminded that the characters in the three short stories are recognized and are a subject of discussion in many institutions of learning. They form an integral part of American literature that cannot be ignored. I also hanged a wallpaper in my study table to serve as a reminder of _x0093_The Yellow Wallpaper_x0094_ by Charlotte Perkins.
The three short stories inspire the theme of continued research into mental disorders and the various aspects of how mentally ill people need to be treated in the society. Continued exploration into American literature should continue being conducted in order to develop learners with a critical thinking ability and a historical perspective of life in earlier times.
THE UNRELIABILITY OF THE NARRATOR
This paper will analyze the concept of the unreliable narrator which will be drawn from three short stories namely: _x0093_The Tell-Tale Heart_x0094_ by Edgar Allan Poe, _x0093_In a Grove_x0094_ by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, and _x0093_The Yellow Wallpaper_x0094_ by Charlotte Perkins.
The Tell-Tale Heart
This is a story of a murderer that kills an old man who used to live in his house. He assumes that madness is separable from the actions of the madman. After committing the heinous crime, he is visited by three police officers who search the house. He eventually confesses to the crime because he thinks the old man_x0092_s heartbeat is so loud such that the police will eventually hear it.
The paratextual signal lies in the title of the story. The words tell-tale indicate that someone is going to tell us a tale. At times, tales are imaginary in nature, so the narrator in this story could be telling us lies or giving us only his limited point of view.
The reader can suspect that the narrator has a hidden motive as he expresses himself. He purposes to disclose the details of his wrong doing to the reader so that he can prove his sanity. He says _x0093_how calmly I can tell you the whole story_x0094_ (Poe 64) in an effort to convince us that he is mentally sound. In his mind, if he can enact such an intricate murder with an eye for detail, then he surely must be sane! This is further proved when he says, _x0093_if you think I am mad, you will no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body_x0094_ (66). The narrator proceeds to give an account of the horrendous dismemberment of the old man_x0092_s body and achieves the direct opposite reaction he was expecting from the reader, hence fully convincing us that he is crazy.
Unreliability is also shown by the peculiar reasoning, behavior, and speech of the murderer. He says, _x0093_always the eye was closed, so it was impossible for me to do the work. For it was not the old man I felt I had to kill; it was the eye, his evil eye_x0094_ (65). His extreme nervousness and paranoia advanced to madness. This is shown in the statement, _x0093_True-nervous-very very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that am mad?_x0094_ (66). The protagonist also informs the reader that he loved the old man and he was not able to kill him when he was asleep because the evil eye was closed (64).
His unreliability is also shown by the hallucinations that he suffers from. He behaves like the third-person or omniscient narrator yet he was the perpetrator. When he went to the old man_x0092_s bed to kill him, he thinks that he knows what the old man _x0093_had been saying to himself_x0094_ (66). Additionally, he believes that he can hear the thoughts of the police officers when he says that _x0093_yet the officers heard not_x0085_was it possible? Almighty God _____No, No!_x0094_ (67). The imaginary world that he lives in is a creation of his mind which is full of illusions and hallucinations.
The story is also highly subjective. The narrator tells his story using few main characters that are not named and three police officers that we cannot distinguish. In addition, the setting is not distinguishable and there is a lack of a stimulus in an objective sense.
The narrator has extensive internal contradictions. He says that he pitied the old man in his _x0093_mortal terror_x0094_ (66) then shortly afterward, he adds, _x0093_although I chuckled at heart_x0094_ (66). The unreliable first-person point of view is also indicated when he thinks that the sound of the old man_x0092_s beating heart would attract the attention of his neighbors completely ignoring the loud scream the old man had made. It was, in fact, the scream that attracted the attention of a neighbor who called the police. He scrutinizes the old man_x0092_s corpse and assures the reader that the man is _x0093_stone dead_x0094_ (65) yet he proceeds to cut the body into pieces.
In a Grove
This is a story about a samurai who died in the grove. Seven witnesses give conflicting accounts of the murder. These are the victim_x0092_s wife, the woodcutter, a priest, a thief, an old woman, the medium, and the police. Three of them claim to be the murderer.
The narrator is unreliable because the seven witnesses have conflicting information as they give an account of what really happened. When a new testimony arrives, the older one is not verified. Some items are mentioned in one witnesses_x0092_ account and left out in another witness_x0092_ account. Such items include the samurai_x0092_s sword and the abandoned horse on the road.
For example, the murderer_x0092_s confession was much different from the version of the story told by the surviving samurai_x0092_s wife who was present in the grove during the murder.
Additionally, the story is told by another medium using the words of the murdered samurai. This narrator is also unreliable because the medium lacks clarity when he says _x0093_then someone crept up to me. I tried to see who it was. But darkness had already been gathering around me_x0094_ (Akutagawa 11).
There are discrepancies and contradictions that illustrate the unreliable narrator. This is shown when several people admit to the crimes of murder, theft, and rape. Each one has a motive hence the reader cannot trust their version of the story. Human perception is highly questioned and the tendency to tell lies for malicious gains is exposed. All the facts are second hand so it is impossible to uncover what really happened.
The Yellow Wallpaper
The speaker in this story can be justified as unreliable based on her acceptance that she _x0093_functions with slight hysterical tendencies_x0094_ (Gilman 132). This is a story about a woman who is suffering from severe postpartum depression which turns to insanity over time. Her husband who is a physician does not understand her illness and does not approve of her writing. This worsens her condition and she is obsessed with a wallpaper in the room.
In the first perspective in the story, as told by the woman, unreliability is presented by the fact that she is suffering from extreme postpartum depression that slowly turns to insanity. This condition has the ability to affect her point of view and she might misinterpret reality. There are things that she feels are true in her head, but they might not be true in the objective sense. This is seen when she describes the wallpaper is helping her to recover yet she is proved to be getting worse due to her description of the wallpaper _x0093_there is an outer pattern that entraps a desperate woman who creeps around and wants to desperately escape her confines_x0094_ _x0093_the front part does move-and no wonder! The woman behind it shakes it_x0094_ (139)
The narrator also seems oblivious to her behavior. Even though her inner self is determined and strong, she also hallucinates and has a false understanding of reality. She explains how the children that she believes live in the next room were violent because they would take chunks out of the bedstead, yet a few minutes later she gets mad and similarly bites the bed. She also talks about the women that she sees creeping outside and says that she never creeps at daytime.
Her husband_x0092_s point of view is also unreliable because he does not understand the seriousness of her condition. He sees the condition as a minor one that would fix itself with time. He perceives that locking her up in the room would help in her recovery yet the wife confesses that she feels imprisoned.
The supernatural element also makes the narrator unreliable. According to the perspective of the narrator, she says the wallpaper is a draught and there is a woman that is trapped inside. It could refer to a psychotic break and a malicious spirit that lived in that house.
From the above discussion, the nature of the unreliability in _x0093_The Yellow Wallpaper_x0094_ is that of a hurting, angry, and confused character. It is unintentional because the narrator is not fully aware of the surrounding situation. The narrator invites the reader to think beyond the writing and become the sane observer. The nature of unreliability in _x0093_The Tell-Tale Heart_x0094_ and _x0093_In a Grove_x0094_ is intentional because it is that of people with ulterior motives. Unreliability is made clear as the stories progress and the narrators appear as characters with hints to the unreliability of characters. Hence, an unreliable narrator can be defined as the character with compromised credibility and who tells the reader a story from an insane, lying and delusional point of view. The narrator cannot be trusted because they speak with bias, make mistakes, and lie. The three stories are murder mysteries that highlight the question of the truth in storytelling while leaving a question unanswered. In the three stories, the memories of what really happened are misrepresented either intentionally due to a hidden agenda, or unintentionally in the case of mentally ill narrators. Some are delusional, insane, evil, or just wrong. Other unreliable characters do not remember exactly what happened so they create their own stories. These narrators are used by the author to reveal the information at a certain point in the story. They are also used as a creative element of the writer. It is a strategy that keeps the reader glued to the story in search of the truth.
The unreliable narrators also approach the stories with suspicion. There are few or no reliable characters. These narrators are not simply characters sharing different points of view, they are designed to purposefully lack credibility. The authors give hints progressively to discredit the narrator.
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