My Dear Wife
It was one sunny afternoon when my wife Missy told me she was sick. I told her there was nothing wrong with her other than temporary nervous depression. I asked her to start packing because I’ve acquired a colonial mansion for our three months vacation. She asked why it had stood for long untenanted and too cheap to rent the place. I laughed it off as I always do whenever she asks any silly question. Then late in the first night when we had moved in, Missy came to me saying; “it was the most beautiful place and makes her think of English places we read about because it is quite alone, standing well back from the road, quite three miles from the village for there are hedges and walls and gates that lock, and lots of separate little houses for the gardeners and people. She said she had never seen such a large and shady garden, full of box-bordered paths, and lined with long grape-covered arbors with seats under them”.
Missy told me she wants to stay in the room downstairs which has an open piazza with roses all over the window with pretty old-fashioned chintz hangings. I refused her request because there was not enough room for two beds and no near room for me. I told her I had to be closer at night because she was not in the right state to be left alone. I realized she was nervous so I prescribed some medication for her so her condition would not get worse. I also let her know we were there solely on her account and that, she has to have as much rest as possible so she will get better.
We had been at this place for some time and Missy had shown signs of improvement. She was more active than she used to be when we got here and I was quite glad about that. Later that day Jennie, my sister told me she sees Missy look at the wall in a strange way and anytime she enters our room she sees her hands under the pillow. Jennie thinks I should ask Missy if there is anything she’s hiding but I refused. She also said she once saw Missy holding something that looked like a pen. I asked whether she was sure about what she was saying but her response was shaky. Later that night Jennie woke me up telling me she had some concerns about Missy. I asked her to wait until I return from work the next day so we could talk. She insisted it was important but I told her I had to go back to sleep because I had to be at the hospital very early in the morning.
Some days later, whilst having dinner Missy started talking about how much she loved the place again. She said she gets a lovely view of the estate. She also said there was a beautiful shaded lane down that runs down there from the house. She added that, she always fancy to see people walking in the numerous paths and arbors around the place. I asked why she fancied the place that much and warned her that, her imaginative power and habit of story making with her nervous weakness could lead to all manner of excited fancies.
Three weeks for us to leave, Jennie told me once more that, she is concerned about the way Missy acts when she sees her. I told her I appreciate her concerns and ask her not to worry about her. I called Missy and asked how she was faring. She said, “John dear, I feel better but I want to go home”. I pleaded with her that she should be a little patient because they had not finished the repairs in our house. She understood and all was well after that. I had to spend the night outside a day before we leave this place. When I returned the next morning, I found Missy locked out in the room insisting she was not going to open up until I came. I could hear her screaming and talking about tying up the woman when she comes out of the wall so she will not escape. I asked her to open the door but she said she can’t. I pounded on the door and called for an axe. She said in the gentlest voice “John dear, it would be a shame to break down that beautiful door!” the key is down by the front steps, under a plantain leaf” That silenced me for a moment. Then I gently asked her to open the door but she insisted the key was under the leaf so I had to go and see, and I got it of course, and came in. I stopped short by the door. What is the matter? I cried. For God’s sake, what are you doing Missy! She kept creeping and looked at me over my shoulder and said “I’ve got out at last, in spite of you and Jennie. And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back!” That was all I heard. I opened my eyes and heard Missy’s brother ask me whether I was ok. He said I fainted when I saw Missy go crazy.
The “Yellow Wall Paper” and “My Dear Wife” are stories that talks about the decline in the mental stability of a medical doctor’s wife. The “Yellow Wall Paper” uses autodiegetic narration to show what John’s wife goes through during this period whereas “My Dear wife” uses first person character narration to show John’s ignorance and denial of what his wife goes through. The type of narration in each of the stories has an effect on the level of detail available to the reader. The narrative of the original story is very detail and overt and makes readers understand what the writer wants to send across quite easily but the retell “My Dear Wife” on the other hand has little detail and most of it is implied and makes it quite difficult to understand what the narrator wants to send across to the naratee.
As mentioned, the main difference in both stories is the level of details. The narrative style makes understanding the “Yellow wallpaper” easier compared to “My Dear Wife”. Using autodiegetic narration in the “Yellow Wall Paper” gives a lot of substance to the story, as it the protagonist telling us what experience she had. It makes the story very believable as all the information is from the original source. For example John’s wife at a point in her narration described what she goes through by writing that “You see I have something more to expect, to look forward to, to watch. I really do eat better, and am more quiet than I was. John is so pleased to see me improve! He laughed a little the other day, and said I seemed to be flourishing in spite of my wall-paper. I turned it off with a laugh. I had no intention of telling him it was BECAUSE of the wall-paper—he would make fun of me. He might even want to take me away. I don’t want to leave now until I have found it out”. This is an all inclusive detail that says a lot about her imaginations and is quite central to understanding the direction the story is going. In other words the quotation has a lot of information on the thoughts and reaction of the most important characters in the story. This kind of detail enables the reader put him or herself into the minds of the characters and as a result will make the message well understood. On the other hand the retell, “My Dear Wife” using John as a narrator does not give much detail about what is going on with his wife, the main character in the story. John in his narration gave very few and quite unreliable details about the very few things he thought might have contributed in what became of his wife at the end. The information in his narration was mostly based on what his sister, Jennie suspected rather than what he had seen or suspected. As John tells us that, “Three weeks for us to leave, Jennie told me once more that, she is concerned about the way Missy acts when she sees her. I told her I appreciate her concerns and ask her not to worry about her”. From reading “My Dear Wife”, this is the kind of detail that was available to the reader. This in other words is not information to enough to understand or know the direction the story was going. From reading the original story and knowing what the story is all about this kind of detail does not help in any way to understand what the story is all about. The information provided in the retell does not say much about what was really going on with John or his wife. It only showed the concerns of Jennie about Missy and does not add much to the substance of the story. It only tells us how dismissive and ignorant John was in terms of what was going on with his wife. The level of details provided in either story as mentioned earlier affected the meaning and understanding of each story. As the original story was very detailed and was quite easy to follow through it but the shallowness of the details of the retell affected how it was understood and showed clearly it lacked what was important to understand a story properly.
Notwithstanding the effect the narrative style had on how the stories were understood; the narrative of both stories gives an idea of signs of mental instability of John’s wife at some point. In the “Yellow Wall Paper”, John’s wife at several points in her narration gave an abnormal description of the wall paper in their room. She wrote in her narration that, “There is one marked peculiarity about this paper; a thing nobody seems to notice but myself, and that is that it changes as the light changes. When the sun shoots in through the east window—I always watch for that first long, straight ray—it changes so quickly that I never can quite believe it. That is why I watch it always. By moonlight—the moon shines in all night when there is a moon—I wouldn’t know it was the same paper”. She wrote this to describe the wall paper in their room. What she was “seeing” or imagining was on the wall paper was a form of illusion in her mind’s eye; something that was a sign of mental instability. These continuous habits of imaginations throughout the story attest to the fact that there was something mentally wrong with her. It is a sign of the fact that her idleness is having a direct impact on the way she thinks and sees things. Similarly, the narrative of “My Dear Wife” also showed signs of insanity by John’s wife. There are points in the retell where her utterances clearly showed that her mental stability was declining. For example it is written in the retell that, “whilst having dinner, Missy started talking about how much she loved the place again. She said she gets a lovely view of the estate. She also said there was a beautiful shaded lane down that runs down there from the house. She added that, she always fancy to see people walking in the numerous paths and arbors around the place. I asked why she fancied the place that much and warned her that, her imaginative power and habit of story making with her nervous weakness could lead to all manner of excited fancies”. The way she talked about the place was kind of weird coupled with John’s objection to her continual description of the place in such a manner showed there was something abnormal going on with her. These attitudes Missy exhibited clearly showed there was something mentally wrong with her. Though John warned her to stop those imagination, he was dismissive of that because he thought it was one of those ‘‘things’’, as he warned her that he habit of story making and imaginations could lead to all manner of excited fantasies. Clearly, it is quite obvious from these details that the mental stability of John’s wife is in serious decline.
Lastly, both the original story the “Yellow Wall Paper” and the retell “My Dear Wife” have clearly shown what became of John’s wife after respecting his judgment as a medical doctor but the narrative style affected the level of details available which in turn affected the measure of the understanding in either story. The original story using the autodiegetic narration showed how John’s wife transitioned in her insanity and the retell on the other hand using a first person character narration showed how ignorant and dismissive John was.