Although every culture has its own distinct folklore and mythology, there are certain image patterns that seem to be universal. These image patterns, or archetypes, are closely related to both oral and written storytelling, and strike ^aEURoe, some very deep chord, in human nature^aEUR (Guerin 158), eliciting a common response, whether conscious or subconscious, from the reader or listener. Archetypes appear time and time again in literature; their presence can determine whether or not a piece of writing is considered a classic. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, s short story, ^aEURoeThe Yellow Wallpaper^aEUR, is a voyeuristic examination of the psyche of a woman suffering from ^aEURoetemporary nervous depression ^aEUR" a slight hysterical tendency^aEUR (Gilman 1), who is driven to full-fledged hysteria after being trapped in a yellow-wallpaper-ed prison. Jungian Archetypal theory is an offshoot of psychological analysis, as Jung was one of Freud, s students, and therefore the two theories are often closely linked in literary criticism. Archetypal analysis is appropriate for this psychological story because it includes aspects of Freud, s theory while giving it a broader scope.
^aEURoeThe Yellow Wallpaper^aEUR contains several reversed or negative archetypes that appear as the narrator furthers her inverted ^aEUR~quest, to free her shadow, or her descent into insanity. As archetypal analysis deals quite often with the conscious and subconscious mind, the two parts of the ^aEURoeSelf^aEUR (Jung 3) figure greatly in this critical theory. In ^aEURoeThe Yellow Wallpaper^aEUR, the narrator is trapped in a prison-like room, and sees images in the wallpaper that come to look like a woman trapped behind bars. This ^aEURoecreeping woman^aEUR is, in Jungian terms, the narrator, s shadow, 2 or a dissociation of her Self. Shadows and dissociation's often contain the darker, more aggressive or sexually liberated aspects of the person, s psyche (Jung 7) in this instance a sort of freedom of thought as well as escapism.
The trapped woman can get out in the daytime, creeping around the garden or ^aEURoeaway off in the open country, creeping as fast as a cloud shadow in a high wind^aEUR (Gilman, 13). The narrator, on the other hand, can only creep behind the locked doors of her prison, when she is completely alone. The shadow could also be the woman, s animus- ^aEURoethe male personification of the unconscious within a woman^aEUR (Jung 198). Even though she is female, the shadow is more aggressive than the passive, nervous narrator, embodying what are traditionally considered more ^aEUR~masculine, traits. And while the animus does not quite represent the Jungian ^aEURoedemon of death^aEUR (Jung 199), in this story, it does, in a way, herald the death of the narrator, s sanity. Just as the woman behind the paper serves as a manifestation of the struggle between the two forces of the narrator, s Self, her contradictory monologues and the swings in her mental state as shown through her journal entries are a written expression of her internal conflict that eventually leads to her losing her mind.
These two forces of the narrator, s Self come together in a very symbolic scene, where the two women meet at the bars and work together to get ^aEURoethe poor thing^aEUR out (Gilman 13). From then on the narrator says ^aEURoeI^aEUR and not ^aeuroethe^aEUR, having completely identified with her woman behind the wallpaper, and declined into complete madness. With this, Gilman suggests that a person can release the 3 dark recesses of his or her psyche and combine the different aspects of the self, but not retain stability, as an imbalance is created. One of the most important and commonly seen Jungian Archetypes is the Hero archetype of transformation or redemption, who comes in three stages: Quest, Initiation and Sacrifice (Guerin 167). The narrator in Gilman, s story falls into the latter Hero archetype (transformation), going through her own personal quest, initiation and sacrifice, although not as a scapegoat or atonement. Her quest is inverted, more of a descent, really, as she spends the summer in the room with the hideous yellow wallpaper and becomes increasingly ill despite her physician husband John, s protestations of ^aEURoeReally dear you are better^aEUR (Gilman 9).
At first the narrator finds the paper ^aEURoerepellent, almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow^aEUR (Gilman 3), but gradually feels that she is the only one who can understand it and not be affected by it. Her quest changes as she sees the image of a trapped woman in the paper, and she devotes her attentions to getting this woman out, eventually realizing that she herself is trapped. Her impossible initiation tasks are not epic or mythological in the conventional literary sense, but her internal struggle is no small feat. The sacrifice at the end is of her mind.
She has been driven to this hysterical state by the repressive nature of her husband, s care and the sheer pressure and intensity of her physical and psychological prison. Unlike the typical Jungian Heroic sacrifice, however, nothing is achieved at the end of the story; the land is not restored to fruitfulness by her sacrifice. Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. ^aEURoeThe Yellow Wallpaper^aEUR and Other Stories. Mineola, New York: Dover T rift Editions, 1997.
Guerin, Wilfred L. , et al. A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992. Jung, Carl G.
Man and His Symbols. New York: Dell Publishing Co. Inc. , 1964..