Disorders occur in virtually all types of people. The trigger of disorder usually becomes something that an individual wants to forget or escape from. “In the Lake of the House” by Tim O’Brien and “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins, both characters, even though they belong to different genders and represent different roles within society and marriage, have severe psychological disorders.
“In the Lake of the Woods” is a brilliant and provocative meta fictional mystery. The novel starts with the John Wade’s retreat with his wife Kathy to the Lake of the Woods in far north Minnesota. The year portrayed is 1986. The novel combines the fictional story of John Wade with material from the factual source and the author’s own footnoted comments and his personal opinion. John losses in the Minnesota Senate election because of his mysterious past that he tried to hide and run away from. He is trying hard to hold his marriage and himself together but the problems of his past and what he did trouble him deeply. The structure of the novel is unusual, as in the first chapter the author reveals that Kathy will disappear. Rather than to tell a story of the couple’s life, the author explores the hypothesis. When Kathy is not found, Wade joins the search about four weeks later but with the only reason – to disappear himself, therefore making it impossible to solve the mystery of both of their disappearances. (O’Brien )
“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins is a story where the misunderstanding between a wife and a husband dominates as the red thread in the story. Charlotte Perkins develops the drama out of simple depression that most of women have. However, by having a doctor husband this woman end being locked up in the house, where she is left completely for herself. Moreover, she is being threatened by her husband to be sent to the professional facility where she will get special care. Charlotte Perkins demonstrates how desperate a woman can be when she is completely abandoned. At some point of her life, the yellow wallpaper dominates her imagination.
Psychological disorders disrupt people’s lives, especially the families of those who suffer from it. Both stories reveal the characters with certain psychological disorders. Two common things that both stories have are the marriage problems and the psychological disorder of one of the characters. Moreover, in “The Lake of the Woods”, the psychological disorder of John is a cause of his dysfunctional marriage, when in “The Yellow Wallpaper” it is vice verse. In Perkins’ story, Jennie becomes insane because of her dysfunctional marriage, when her husband John does not get her psychological conditions and does really nothing to help her. (Gilman )
John Wade was severely damaged by his past. The first aspect that the author tried to tell about John’s psychological disorder roots is his childhood. Tim O’Brien uses a unique structure of his novel, as he discloses the crime at first and only then investigates what might happen to Kathy. O’Brien never mentioned that John is a murder, however, he started giving examples of his insanity, which was very visible for his wife. In addition, the author makes it very clear that Kathy cheated on John, but once again, never tells the reader that John could have killed her because of rage. He posts John as a man who lived in a shadow of his past, trying very hard to hide it and forget it. But his past always echoed on his marriage, which made it very clear when describing his sleepwalking problems. John was lost, as when Kathy found out about Vietnam and his past he replies, “Everything is true. Everything is not true”. Tim O’Brien has always insisted on the spectral quality of the things that happened in Vietnam. His main suggestion was that seeing was never equal to proof, as the eyes can lie by not showing the reality. When he comes to the Lake in the Woods, he is ruined, disturbed and lonely. (O’Brien )
Both authors describe how their psychological disorders affect their characters. “In the Lake of the Woods” the author tells about the problem of sleepwalking and disrupted sleeping at night that deeply affects the marriage of the main character. Charlotte Perkins illustrates how bad the character of Jennie gets at the end of the story, when she feels completely alone. She starts having hallucinations and her minds compares herself to the image on the wallpaper that she is trying to protect from anyone else, because she is afraid that she will loose it too, just like she lost society, communication, husband and real life.(Gilman )
Traumatic experiences wound marriage. John yearns for unconditional love and acknowledgment. The way O’Brien tells the story is interesting, as even at the end of the book the reader cannot understand if John decided to simply disappear or he acknowledged that he murdered his wife and committed suicide himself. O’Brien uses this story to demonstrate how people get affected by trauma in their lives, as it resembles a house with many rooms. Every trauma can be locked in one of such rooms in order to hide it. He had mood swings, he could wake up in the middle of the night strangling his wife or even sleep walk. Tim O’Brien never reveal what happened to Kathy, but he says: “There were times when John Wade wanted to open up Kathy’s belly and crawl inside and stay there forever”. Kathy became for him that mirror he always imagined in his mind where he could become invisible. He wanted to dissolve in Kathy, love her and live a happy life never reminding himself of his past. Kathy was adulterous and when John’s inner personality, the one that tried to hide all sins from his past, could not handle being humiliated, he killed her in the state of sleepwalking. After “waking up” from his traumatic state, he realized of what he did and could not live with it any longer.(O’Brien )
Dysfunctional marriage causes psychological disorders. Charlotte Perkins uses symbolism in her story by comparing the picture Jennie sees on the wallpaper to herself. Perkins illustrates abandoned woman completely on herself by giving her everything that is empty. The author is sure that if John, Jennie’s husband would react differently on her conditions, she would be cured. Jennie thinks“I sometimes fancy that in my condition if I had less opposition and more society and stimulus”. By saying that the author expects John to be more supportive and do not simply leave his wife in an empty house, but support her and give her the cure by taking care of her and socializing with her. In “The Yellow Wallpaper” the dysfunctional not supportive marriage makes Jennie to completely loose her mind. (Gilman )
Both John Wade and Jennie have psychological disorders, however, triggered by different circumstances and effecting different spheres of life. Both stories incorporate the idea of dysfunctional. Both stories tell about different madness and different causes that became the triggers of psychological disorders of main characters. However, in one story marriage causes psychological instability and in the other one, it gets affected by the psychological disorder. These stories reveal the unspoken ideas about marriage and the secret’s of people’s real thoughts. In addition, they might be reflecting on psychological disorders that make people have several personalities because of escaping the reality they live in.