In the works, Long Day’s Journey Into Night by Eugene O’Neil and “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, many of the themes appear to be in close relation. Both works can be regarded as tragedies of the early modern American culture’s views on femininity. The main difference between the tragedies is that Long Day’s Journey into Night is a family tragedy, while “The Yellow Wallpaper” is more a tragedy of a lonely woman who lacks love, help, and support from the closest people. Even though these works seem to be thematically similar, they depict the problem of the role of women in society in absolutely different ways.
Long Day’s Journey Into Night is a one-day story about the Tyrone family’s degradation. The work demonstrates how the lack of support and love in the family slowly kills every self-oriented member of it. The main characters degrade and become the victims of the various types of drug addiction, diseases, alcoholism, stinginess, negligent attitude toward money and work, their past, and some other reasons. With the development of the plot, the parents, who once dreamt of their sons achieving success and becoming good people, fall in the state of submissive despair.
“The Yellow Wallpaper,” on the contrary, is the autobiographical work that concentrates on the suffering of a young woman who lacks support and help from her husband. As a result, being left in the countryside mansion, she becomes hysterically mad. The work represents the consequences of an “ideal marriage”, where a husband “thinks” about his wife composing to-do-lists. The narrator is driven insane by the mental and physical restrictions she experiences. She is compelled to hide her ambitions and anticipations in order to create an image of an ideal, happy, and loving marriage and to pretend that she is gaining victory over her depression. She says, “John says if I feel so, I shall neglect proper self-control; so I take pains to control myself—before him, at least, and that makes me very tired”. From the very beginning, it becomes clear that not a happy life has turned a young lady into a depressed and mad woman. Silence and indolence made the narrator passive and prevented her from using her mind. Instead of supporting his wife, her husband forbids her even to write her thoughts and feeling on the paper. This represses her imaginative power and accelerates the illness.
Long Day’s Journey Into Night is also an autobiographical work. It depicts many aspects of the author’s life. What makes it different from Gilman’s work is that the characters are all equally flawed. The work is devoid of any bias and inequality, and no character is described in any perspective worse than any other. As a result, the description is fair and unprejudiced, and it gives the reader an opportunity to see the flaws of the characters as positive features when observed from a different angle. One of the distinctive features of the play is its depiction of the attitude of people towards their condition. No one admits their flaws; the characters accuse the unfair life in all their problems: "None of us can help the things life has done to us" (Long Day’s Journey Into Night 2.1.63). In “The Yellow Wallpaper”, on the other hand, the narrator admits her illness.
The work “The Yellow Wallpaper” shows not a hysterical feminine but rather a female who longs for an intellectual and emotional output. The secret journal serves as an instrument for relieving her soul and mind; the mind imprisoned in a state of inactivity may result in self-destruction. The yellow wallpaper bears a symbolic character and represents the life of the narrator. She sees a figure of a woman who is desperately looking for an escape from a cage in the paper’s patterns. The wallpaper symbolizes the traditional views of the women’s role, “ideal marriage”, medicine, and surrounding in which the storyteller is trapped. Furthermore, the wallpaper is obedient and domestic, and the author purposely uses this horrible, heinous paper as a metaphor of the domestic life that imprisons so many women.
In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the author criticizes the position of women in the institution of matrimony, especially the one experienced by the higher classes of her time. Gilman pays particular attention to the domestic duties of a wife and the active work of a husband. She claims that women are regarded as second-class citizens in such a society. The author states that because of this division, women were kept in an infantile state of unawareness and were deprived of development. The narrator of the story has no power to change anything and, as a result, resorts to fanatic fantasies, which serve as the only place where she has control and can use her mind.
At first glance, two autobiographical works seem to concentrate on similar themes. However, while one work focuses mainly on the desperate attempts of a woman to escape from the cage created by the society and her husband, another work concentrates on the fact that the family members willingly construct a cage for themselves. The role of women in the works remains the same, and both of them are left to cope with their problems on their own. One more distinctive feature of the stories is the complete non-recognition of the problem by the men. Both families find it easier to reject the thoughts that something may be wrong, trying to persuade women that their disorders are the results of fatigue or other factors. Even though both works highlight the issue differently, they reveal the problems of misunderstanding and selfishness in the families.