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Gothic stories are known to be
set in dark and mysterious atmospheres but often integrate other element to the
narrative to relay information and suggest other ideas. Shutter Island by
Dennis Lehane and “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Stetson are
similar in that aspect as both stories explore the idea of madness through
setting. Isolation, environmental elements and delusion are element of the
narrative that establish the relation between the setting and character

The locale is often portrayed
as being isolated, in many gothic tales, as means to initiate mystery into the
story. Which in fact, often leads to trigger insanity in characters. This idea is
demonstrated in Shutter Island from the seclusion of the Ashecliffe Hospital
for the Criminally Insane. Per example, during the hurricane, Teddy and Chuck
were lost in the cemetery when the Deputy Warden McPherson found them. As Teddy
wondered how the Warden found them Chuck says “It’s an island boss. They’ll
always find us” (154). This passage demonstrates that anywhere they go, they
will always be found which shows a lack of freedom, a certain isolation from
the world outside of the island because there is nowhere to go. Therefore, the
isolation and lack of freedom can slowly lead someone to madness. Likewise, in
“The Yellow Wallpaper” the narrator’s room is in a colonial mansion “… quite alone, standing well back from
the road, quite three miles away from the village” (250) depicts that the
narrator is in fact physically isolated from civilization in some way. The
mansions seclusion also manifests an emotional isolation on the part of the
narrator as she feels that keeping a journal “is such a relief” (255) because
she “must say what she feels and thinks in some way” (255). This
demonstrates further that, isolation causes the mind to have unusual thought
which by consequence can develop into insanity. Furthermore, in Shutter Island,
the patients are only exposed to criminally insane people and by such it is hard
for the patients to heal or stay sane if they are surround by insane people.
Briefly, the physical isolation of the locale in gothic literature finds its
way into establishing madness into the characters.

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Similarly, as to how isolation
affects the state of mind of the characters, environmental elements can also
lead to the same outcome. The characters surroundings affects them, much more
than imagined, as they are constantly exposed to their surroundings. For
instance, in “The Yellow Wallpaper” the narrator is constantly exposed to the
wallpaper that she does not understand “Its dull enough to confuse the eye … follow
a lame uncertain curve for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide-
plunge off at outrageous angles, …” (251) and because she does not understand
the pattern, she begins analysing it which leads her to insanity. But if she
was not constantly seeing the wallpaper, she would not have been able to
analyse it and would not have seen the lady stuck in the wall. Therefore, would
not have reached that peak of madness. In contrast, Lehane’s novel influential
environmental element are portrayed through hearing. Teddy tries to prove his
sanity to Dr Cawlee, he then meets a female doctor that tells him “Insane men
deny that they are insane” (269) “If
you are deemed insane, …. Your sound protests constitute denial. Your valid
fears are deemed paranoia. Your survival instincts are labelled defense
mechanisms. It’s a no-win situation.” (270). This passage demonstrates how the
directors of Shutter Island anyone who proves to be a threat to their
operation. Therefore, the more Teddy tries to contradict that he is not insane,
the more he is falling into his insanity by getting frustrated, listening to
everything he is told including conspiracy theories and not thinking rationally.
In a few words, surrounding element used by the author of gothic, influence
greatly the outcome of the characters sanity as they lead to eventual madness.

The characters delusions
underline the impact of gothic element have on their mental sanity. In Shutter
Island, the author, Dennis Lehane, explores the idea of insanity through a
hallucinatory event, as in the end, all that takes places throughout the novel
is in fact delusions and a fragment of Teddy’s imagination as he was given
drugs to help him live out his fantasy in his mind. Throughout Teddy’s
investigation in Shutter Island, he kept making the same hallucination about
“Three children-Two boys and a girl-crossed in front of him”(181-182). These
visions of the three children profoundly confuse Teddy and influence the
downfall of his mental state as Dr Cawlee uses this as leverage to convince
Teddy of his insanity. “You
can’t stop dreaming, Andrew. … Have you had any lately with the two boys and
the little girl? Has the little girl taken you to your headstone? You’re ‘a bad
sailor,’ Andrew. … It means you’re a bad father. … You didn’t save them.
You want to talk about the logs? Huh? Come over here and look at them. Tell me
they’re not the children from your dreams.” (336). The logs hold symbolic
significance as they are seen around the island, they represent Teddy’s
children’s bodies in the lake. This textual evidence is proof of Teddy’s
insanity and how delusional he is by denying everything and falling deep into
his fantasy. Furthermore, in “The Yellow Wallpaper”, the author gives life to
the wallpaper by using personification in the form of the narrator’s
hallucination “This paper looks to me as if it knew what a vicious influence it
had! There is a recurrent spot where the pattern lolls like a broken neck and
two bulbous eyes stare at you upside down. I get positively angry with the
impertinence of it and the everlastingness.” (252). This demonstrates the
importance of the effect the wallpaper has on the character, the wallpaper led
her to madness by her delusion. Succinctly, delusion is a major factor to what
leads to insanity as it is a mistaken belief that is held up by strong conviction
which has a strong effect on the characters perception of things.

To conclude, gothic
literature, a genre known for combining romance and horror does in fact
illustrate insanity in several stories such as Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane and
“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Stetson. As both authors,
demonstrated isolation, environmental elements and delusions as means to
capture the effects of setting on the characters mental state.

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