Computer software & Technologies
The creative treatment of disobedience and rebellion in Charlotte Perkins Gillman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Herman Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener”
Rebellion always starts in order to achieve something, if somebody rebels against the system he wants to change it, not only for him but for the sake of the world. That was the main idea of Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience”.
But even though the main target of those three rebellions differs, they are still rebellions. In the situation of Bartleby, he could be hardly an influential voice, as his place is so inferior in the system he fights with, so he has to reinterpret the idea of rebellion and the ways it is taking, in order not to change the system, but to free himself from it. The same purpose was followed by the character of “The Yellow Wallpaper”.
In “Civil Disobedience” Thoreau remembers the phrase “Render therefore to Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God’s those things which are God’s”, though contexts differ this phrase can be easily applied to the ways the characters of two short stories fight with the system. They are powerless to change anything around them, as the inferiors in social level and as uneducated people, but still they both find the way to escape the reality. Somehow they are not within the system, though the system is around them. In contradiction to Thoreau’s case, those characters are also within the walls but not only physically, but also spiritually. Thoreau was placed in the walls of prison to protect the system of his ideas, and Bartleby and the protagonist of the Yellow Wallpaper created the walls that protect them from the system. The office and the former study became their own world, gradually changing from the world of enclosure into the world of freedom.
Maybe this idea can stand for the extension of Thoreau’s idea of rebellion – people should create freedom for themselves even being inferior, pursue their right to be free.
People cannot be forced to be free, at first they have to will it themselves, but as all three works show there are people who are not against the system, they don’t even realize it being a system of obligations, limits and restrictions of freedom: “leaving them no wiser than before as to which was which, for they did not wish to know”. Those, having authority to control are described as narrow minded “coincidental villains”, as they are absolutely content with their way of life, and all the more they are trying to make other people live the same way. For those within the system “the easiest way of life is the best”, and the easiest way is the one that implies no cardinal changes. It is a kind of eternal “rest cure”, the first seeds of rebellion are always suppressed, as Thoreau complains: “Why is it not more apt to anticipate and provide for reform? Why does it not cherish its wise minority? Why does it cry and resist before it is hurt? Why does it not encourage its citizens to be on the alert to point out its faults, and do better than it would have them? Why does it always crucify Christ, and excommunicate Copernicus and Luther, and pronounce Washington and Franklin rebels?”
The freedom is something that everybody feels, but not everybody is ready to understand, and even less are ready to fight for it. It is much easier to call a woman, who is not content with her situation within the social system a slightly neurotic, with the intentions to madness, than acknowledge her right for equality.