Isolation is a key theme in The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin. Both protagonists struggle to attain relevance. Sonny fights drug use and champions his ambition to become a jazz pianist, while the female narrator battles depression, ill physical health, and desires freedom. However, Sonny’s family offers emotional support, but The Yellow Wallpaper’s protagonist does not enjoy spending time with her family. Therefore, The Yellow Wallpaper and Sonny’s Blues show how different situations can drive individuals into isolation from the world.
The protagonists’ isolation from the world and people around them stems from the fact that their feelings are unknown to others. For instance, the narrator in The Yellow Wallpaper spends significant time alone, and she considers her husband’s or sister-in-law’s entry into the room as a distraction. The Yellow Wallpaper immerses readers into the world of mentally ill individuals because the story shows that the narrator suffered depression. In essence, depressed individuals may suffer reduced quality of life without people around them understanding their feelings. Resultantly, such individuals prefer loneliness, and confrontations may inconvenience them. On the other hand, Sonny’s Blues narrates how an ambitious Sonny struggled with different situations and heroin use in his quest to become a jazz pianist. However, Sonny’s brother discourages him from pursuing his dream because he feels Sonny is undecided about his life. As a result, Sonny’s relationship with his brother is challenged. Sonny isolates himself from his brother until much later when he actualizes his dream. Thus, Sonny and The Yellow Wallpaper’s narrator isolate themselves from people around them because their feelings are misconstrued.
However, Sonny boasts a supportive family, unlike John’s wife. Sonny’s Blues describes the different confrontations that Sonny had with his brother, but above all, the family loved Sonny, and they attempted to give him much-needed emotional support. For instance, after Sonny’s daughter’s death, his brother maintains close communication with him while he was in prison. Moreover, Sonny’s brother let him live in his apartment and was always concerned about his life. Sonny also reaches out to his brother when he was in Greece, and they later meet in New York. Conversely, The Yellow Wallpaper’s protagonist’s relationship with her family is not a productive one. The story reveals that John’s wife’s family’s visit left her tired than ever. This is a demonstration that the narrator did not enjoy spending time with her family. The narrator does not boast an intimate relationship with her husband because she feels trapped and experiences the constant urge to escape. Instead of offering her comfort, the people around her irritate her when they get into the room. The narrator’s misery is explained by her interpretation of the yellow wallpaper that she constantly attempted to decipher its meaning. Her interpretation communicated her feelings. Thus, Sonny had a supportive family, but John’s wife did not enjoy spending time with her family.
Overall, The Yellow Wallpaper and Sonny’s Blues illuminate the protagonists’ struggles that influence their isolation from the world. Whereas Sonny’s drug use and ambition are the core causes of his woes, John’s wife’s mental illness separates her from people around her. Sonny’s family offered emotional support, while the female narrator’s family did not play any substantial role in her life. Therefore, Sonny and The Yellow Wallpaper’s narrator are both characterized by isolation from the world.
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