Miss Woodhouse's Musings

…about life, the universe, and everything. Don't panic!

Romance Or Something Like It

It’s rare that my classes fall on a holiday, so I was so excited last night when I realized that not only was my British Literature class meeting on Valentine’s Day, but I didn’t have to report for jury duty!!! This meant I was free to deviate from our study on the Romantics (which aren’t as romantic as the title would have you believe…but that’s a post for another time) and give the kids a whirlwind tour of how England’s famous writers created the Hallmark company. Erm, excuse me. I meant to say “Valentine’s Day.” Same diff?

So, we all have the basic idea that Valentine was some sort of martyr/saint/good guy, right? What you may not know is that there are actually *three* Valentines in the Roman Catholic Encyclopedia (yes, there is such a thing): one from Rome, one from Terni, and one from Africa. Their lives had nothing at all to do with love, romance, poetry, or hearts (except for the fact that theirs stopped beating because of their faith in God and their dedication to the gospel). In fact, there’s absolutely no reason why Chaucer, while writing a poem to commemorate the engagement of Richard II, would reference Valentine…but he did so.

It’s actually a lovely little poem called The Parliament of Fowls that I enjoy reading very much. It’s also 5 hundred million or so lines long, so I’ll just post some pertinent stanzas.

For this was on Saint Valentine’s day,

When every fowl comes there his mate to take,

Of every species that men know, I say,

And then so huge a crowd did they make,

That earth and sea, and tree, and every lake

Was so full, that there was scarcely space

For me to stand, so full was all the place.

Saint Valentine, who art full high aloft –

Thus sing the small fowls for your sake –

Now welcome summer, with your sun soft,

That this winter’s weather does off-shake.

 

Well have they cause to rejoice full oft,

Since each a marriage with its mate does make;

Full joyous may they sing when they wake;

Now welcome summer, with your sun soft,

That this wintry weather does off-shake,

And the long nights’ black away does take.’

 

And with the cries, when their song was done,

That the fowls made as they flew away,

I woke, and other books to read upon

I then took up, and still I read always;

I hope in truth to read something someday

Such that I dream what brings me better fare,

And thus my time from reading I’ll not spare.

The rest of the poem is a bunch of birds talking to each other about love and classic pairs of lovers. As one of my students said, it’s like Narnia. If you have the time, Norton has a lovely rendition online in the Middle English. Delightful!

The next major writer to start a Valentine’s tradition is Edmund Spenser, writer of The Faerie Queen. Do you know what he started? Here’s a quote to give you a hint:

She bath’d with roses red, and violets blew,
And all the sweetest flowres, that in the forrest grew.

Did you figure it out? Oh yes, the much maligned “roses are red, violets are blue” verse! I’m as big a fan of plays on this as the next person, so it made me laugh when the lovey Ponderiss shared “Roses are red, violets are blueish. If it weren’t for Christmas, we’d all be Jewish.” I laughed for a good 5 minutes over that one.

Shakespeare? He didn’t neglect the fad either. In his famous Ophelia scenes (where she runs in and out of court singing songs, throwing around flowers, and generally running mad), she sings a Valentine’s Day song!

To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.

England continued on in this same vein for the next several hundred years, making them one of the most dedicated countries when it comes to this holiday. Did you know that in the 1700’s they even had Valentine factories??? Whole factories that churned out nothing but ornate, flowery Valentines. It’s a pretty cool idea.

So, there you have it! A whirlwind tour through the beginnings of Valentine’s Day! What did you do to celebrate this year?

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Eight More Weeks

It has recently been brought to my attention that my blogging of late is…spotty, at best. Naturally, this is due to an amazingly complex life workload right now, and (if we’re being honest) a general lack of inspiration. But no more! Today marks my last first-day-of-a-session, and I intend to milk these last eight weeks of university for all they are worth.

This morning, I started Hebrew. After a long struggle with Greek, Hebrew seems even more incomprehensible (if that’s even possible). However, I’ve always wanted to learn Hebrew, so I’m attacking it like it’s a language out of a fantasy book. So what if it bears no relationship to English??? A dalet totally reminds me of the word Dalek…this is doable. Oh! Here’s a picture of what I did in class this morning!

I’m continuing with Oral Communication, the only class that is staying the same over the whole semester. It’s a great class though, almost a brain break of sorts. Really, the class should be called The Art of Storytelling, because that is what we do. We read about orality and the ideas of oral culture (slightly ironic, I know), and then we tell stories! Next week we have to tell either a Teaching or a Vision story. I’ve not yet decided which I’ll go with, but so far all of my stories started out as blog posts here. Look at you all, helping me get an A in this class! We are reading this really great book by Walter Ong titled Orality and Literacy that is awesome! If you’re a word/language-geek looking for an interesting read, I encourage you to pick it up! This guy is scary smart.

Last, but not least, I’m doing Mystery Fiction! Due to being one of the first English majors on campus (and helping start the English Club as well), I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the English Suite talking with our awesome English professors. (By the way, that sentence just won an award for overusing the word “English.”) During one of those chats, I was asking our department head about the likelihood of creating certain courses. One of the things I asked about was a mystery class. I’m a huge fan of the genre, and I thought that it might be fun. While I was told that there were no plans to create such a course for the university, the department head mentioned that she had taught such a class at another college in the past.

Fast forward to last May when I realized that my current degree plan left room for one more elective course. Problem was, I’d taken any and every class that I was even slightly interested in. So, I casually asked the department head if she would be willing to do an independent study with me. She was! So there you have it…the brief and tedious history of my university’s first Mystery Fiction class.

I had the honour of drawing up my reading list, and it’s a pretty awesome one:

Week One – The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Week Two – Murder in the Rue Morgue, The Purloined Letter, The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

Week Three – A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

Week Four – The Maltese Falcon  by Dashiell Hammett

Week Five – The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

Week Six – Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers

Week Seven – Death of an Expert Witness by P. D. James

Week Eight – The Service of All the Dead by Colin Dexter

A bit heavy on the British side of things, but we both prefer British literature anyway, so it works out. I also have two supplementary books for the class: The Perfect Murder, and Bloody Murder. I’m sure after ordering those two books that I’m now on some Amazon watch list. Also, please ignore the fact that I’m ordering from Amazon. Desperate times and all that jazz.

Add to that teaching British Literature twice a week, American Literature twice a week, a few music students, and 20+ hours at Starbucks, and I’m really in for an exciting two months. Oh well…l’chaim!

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Bad and Good

As many of you know, I review books for people. Sometimes it is through a random online connection, but most of the time it is through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program. This year was very profitable in the book department for me, so I was very excited today when my newest review book showed up in its padded envelope!  So excited, in fact, that I took it with me to work in case I had a few spare minutes.

I didn’t get a chance to start it yet, but already it is sparking some conversations among my coworkers. I should have expected that. After all, here’s what it is:

Oh, loaded title there. Instantly, my coworkers agreed. You see, we live in a very “Christian” community. Just last week someone posted a page out of the Bible on our community board (You’ve got me stumped. There was nothing particularly interesting or evangelical in the posted passage). It’s not uncommon to find tracts in our tip boxes. We know that many of our customers are pastors of local churches.

Unfortunately, some of the people most vocal about being Christians treat us the most poorly. In the interest of fairness, I freely admitted to my coworkers that I was not the best example of a Christian. Being nice, they pointed out that I also don’t try to shove religion down people’s throats while tearing them to shreds at the same time. Valid point, I’ll give them that.

All that to say, I’ve not yet read the book. But the title resonates with people, so I’m opening things up here! If you feel up to it, why not take over my comments box and tell a story of Christians behaving badly? Maybe it happened to you, maybe you were the one misbehaving, but I know we all have these stories and it’s good for us to take a serious look at our behaviour and see where we fall short.

Have at it! In the meantime, I’ll be reading this book. Who knows what it is really about, but so far it has served a good purpose: it got people talking about what is acceptable behaviour, and what is not. In *my* book, that’s a winning result.

Be back with a review soon!

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My *Hopefully* Last Spring Semester

It dawned on me today that unless my university totally messes up the class schedule for next Fall (and that is not beyond the realm of possibility), this will be my last Spring semester, the last time I’ll take sessions C and D. Trust me, this is totally sweet with no bitter-ness anywhere in sight.

I’m ready to be done with college. For reals.

With that end in mind, I’m tackling 5 classes this semester, something I’ve only tried once before. Due to a professor who apparently didn’t understand the difference between a 100 level and a 400 level class, it didn’t go too well – I ended up dropping a class. For those of you who don’t understand why this is even a big deal (because, let’s face it, most traditional students take 5 classes a semester), allow me to explain. My university is nontradional. Because we started as a graduate school, undergrad classes were an afterthought mostly just so people a few credits short of a Bachelor’s could finish up and move on with life.

Undergrad classes, then, only lasted 8 weeks.

Before you go all “how cool is that” on me, let’s make sure we are on the same page. Imagine all the class work you do for an entire semester. Essays, papers, research, projects, tests, midterms, finals, the works. Now, instead of having 4 months to complete those assignments, you only have 8 weeks. To top it off, you either don’t get a class on campus, or you only get a two hour class every week. To make up for that, you write mini-essays every week and then reply to your classmate’s essays. This is ON TOP of everything else.

Recently, the undergrad program underwent some changes, and we are starting to transition to more traditional schedules. New classes are 16 weeks and on campus, meeting twice a week for an hour and some minutes. To be honest, after 4 years of rapidly cramming information into my head in a two week period, it can be hard to adjust to the pace of a slower class. The temptation is to put the assignments on a back burner because they feel less “urgent.” Or maybe that’s just me.

This semester, I have one 16 week class. We’re studying the Psalms, and the class is amazing! It’s taught by one of my favourite teachers, and taking it means that I’m almost finished with the Biblical Studies minor part of my degree. For the next four months, we are taking apart the book of Psalms, looking at structure, form, meaning, cultural relevance, and spiritual application. If you are interested in a non-scholarly approach to the book, I can’t recommend C. S. Lewis’ Reflections on the Psalms enough. It’s simply brilliant.

“Finally, as will soon be apparent to any reader, this is not what is called an ‘apologetic’ work. I am nowhere trying to convince unbelievers that Christianity is true. I address those who already believe it, or those who are ready, while reading, to ‘suspend their disbelief’. A man can’t be always defending the truth; there must be a time to feed on it.”

Yeah, this is going to be a great class, and is already sparking some ideas for blog posts. You’ve been warned!

Then, this session I have two 8 week classes.

Tuesday nights are helping me finish up my cognate (mini-minor) in Speech and Communication. We are studying Rhetorical Criticism- a research method that helps you identify the purpose and effectiveness of various communication symbols. Over the next few weeks I’ll be writing papers on song lyrics, the State of the Union Address, SuperBowl commercials, and print ads. It’s going to be great fun, and I have a feeling that some of those papers will end up here too!

Last, but not least, I’m taking Milton and the 17th Century. This makes my English major’s heart very, very happy. I’ve never been a huge Milton fan, but his writings are so foundational to other English works that I know it will be a great course. Frustratingly, I can’t seem to get that textbook to come in (*mutters under breath about university bookstores not being quite forthcoming with information about shipping issues*)…but I’m hoping to have it tomorrow. I’ve taken every English literature class with this professor, and she’s awesome! It’s nice to have this class with her.

That’s the bare schedule that I have going on. There are a bunch of other things going on in the next 8 weeks too, but they’ll have to wait. I’ve got to go study!

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Randomness!

5 *Very* Random Things You Don’t Know About Me (and probably didn’t need to know either):

  1. I used to hate coffee, and would only drink it with a TON of sugar and cream. This was only 2 years ago too…true fact.
  2. I didn’t drink caffeinated sodas until I was 13. I’m making up for those lost years now.
  3. I love shoes from both ends of the spectrum: I love little, cute ballet flats as well as 3-4 inch heels! However, I refuse to wear a 1-2 inch heel. Weird, yeah?
  4. C. S. Lewis’s the Chronicles of Narnia were the first fantasy books I ever read, followed closely by the Redwall series. I’ve been hooked on fantasy ever since! (Don’t believe me? Snoop around my Library….)
  5. I play several different instruments (primarily flute, piano, and violin), and teach music as well. One of my dreams? To play at or conduct an orchestra in Carnegie Hall. Seriously. Look for me in 15-20 years!
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The Actor and the Housewife

An incandescently engrossing novel, this is a story that is as heartwarming as it is heart breaking. Hale sets up the plot with an unlikely heroine, Becky Jack, a Mormon stay-at-home mom with three children, one on the way, and the incredible luck to have randomly sold a movie script. As a result, she gets to spend one day in New York, and into this day walks the famous movie star Felix Callahan.

An innocent meeting, and exchange of witty remarks, an uncomfortable shared taxi ride, rooms in the same hotel, and a fun-filled dinner later, Becky is convinced that she has just lived a fantasy. It was nice while it lasted, but she is more than content to return home to her childhood sweetheart of a husband and her wonderful children. She never expects to see Felix again.

Except, he turns up a few months later at a writer’s lecture at which Becky is speaking.

And, just like that, Felix disappears again, only to reappear randomly again, setting a pattern that would continue for months and years.

Becky becomes Felix’s first female best friend. It’s not a truly easy road, and the book chronicles the funny and quirky journey of Felix learning to be a friend, Felix’s supermodel wife indulging his more plebian taste in friends, and Becky’s husband struggling to accept that Becky could continue to love him after experiencing the friendship of a famous movie star.

I was very impressed that, with a plotline ripe for using “tried and true” clichés, Hale manages to give the story fresh twists and an unusual road to the book’s conclusion. On the way to the final page, readers can expect to fall in love with this quirky cast of characters, and to be unwilling to put this book down! Excellent writing, wonderful story, and an enchanting read. (4 Stars)

This book was sent to me via LibraryThing’s “Early Reviewers” program. You may read my review there as well, and please take a few minutes to explore LibraryThing itself. It’s a wonderful site!

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The Answer

I know, I know, I’m late posting today! So sorry; life, doncha know.

So, there I was this morning trying to think about what the theme for today’s Friday Frame-Up should be. Then, I remembered that it’s my coworker’s birthday. Now, all my coworkers are special in their own way, but this one has one extremely notable distinction: she speaks “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” Yes, it’s pretty awesome.

Now, I’m a huge Hitchhiker fan. If you haven’t noticed, then you should read my blog header…and then you should read the books or see the movie. Seriously. I’ll wait here while you educate yourself; otherwise the rest of this post won’t make much sense.

Back to the birthday barista.

We ask each other on shift if we know where our towels are. She understands what “I never could get the hang of Thursdays” means. She even answers my questions with “42”!

May 25th (wow, seems forever ago!)  was “Towel Day”, and we brought our towels into work (I even wrapped mine around my anthology of Hitchhikers). Interestingly enough, the fridges seemed to be celebrating Towel Day as well. Every time I looked at the readouts, this was what they said:

Yeah, it was pretty cool!

Anyway, that’s enough Hitchhiker talk and randomness from me tonight. So long and thanks for all the fish!

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What A Few Weeks It’s Been!

For those of you who may have been wondering, allow me to assure you that the rumours (should there be any) of my technological death have been greatly exaggerated. I am not dead, just very busy. Unfortunately for this little blog, it has been a busyness away from the keyboard. Not that my family minds seeing my face now and then, but that does make it hard to blog.

What, you don’t believe that I’ve really been that busy? Well then, I’ll take you through a little of the past few weeks. (Actually, 11 days according to my mum. Not that anyone is counting. :))

So buckle up- it’s going to be a bit of a long ride!

Friday, 21 May 2010 Taught my last British literature session of the school year. We discussed The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Murder on the Orient Express, and Elizabeth Barret Browning. There is nothing as heartwarming as seeing the look on someone’s face the first time they read the ending of Orient. I won’t give it away here, but if you’ve read it (or seen the epic movie) then you know what I mean!

Saturday, 22 May 2010 Spent the day helping my mum, her office friend, and the friend’s daughter work on small scrapbooks for the two drama teachers. I didn’t intend on spending the whole day with them, but they were so much fun I couldn’t tear myself away. They came up with some cute pages too!

Sunday, 23 May 2010 Devoted the whole day to preparing for my lecture at my university library on…

Monday, 24 May 2010 I learned about my favourite website, LibraryThing, because of the university bookclub. The thing is, I’ve far surpassed the other members in cataloging and participating with the site. So, the library dean asked if I’d give a short informative lecture to the library staff as part of a training series. I was a little rough, but it was the first time I’ve used a huge PowerPoint screen. All in all, it was fun.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010 My English club met with all the officers in the nearby downtown. Our faculty advisor hosted the meeting at her sweet little house. Afterwards, one of the officers and I went to lunch. Best. Chicken. Pita. Ever.

This was also the night of my little brother’s final concert of the year. Due to a marvelous coworker who was willing to swap shifts with me, I was able to attend. The concert was a little long (spell that veeeerrrrrryyyyyyy long), but well worth it. Besides, my friend is home from her job eight hours away and we had a chance to catch up!

Oh yes, and it was Towel Day! Do you know where your towel is?

Wednesday, 26 May 2010 My Bible study class spent the last three weeks viewing “Archaeology and the Bible” DVDs, so I thought it would be neat if my archaeology professor could come speak to the class. He’s super-busy, but he made the time to come. The talk was great- 6 people from my class are interested in auditing classes with him, and I consider that an epic win. Went shopping with Mum that night, which was a ton of fun. :)

Thursday, 27 May 2010 Aforementioned club officer and I met up so she could film a short promo for our club. She did an awesome job- I’ll post the link when it’s up on the website. Then, work.

See, here’s the thing about Thursday. There’s a quote from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that goes “It must be Thursday. I never could get the hang of Thursday.” This about sums up my day. I woke up super late, couldn’t find the people I needed to see, was scheduled to work 2 hours sooner than I thought, and so the day goes. It was a full moon…full moon. Brings out the crazies- and messes up your day. Anyhoo….

Friday, 28 May 2010 Work again! Also, graduation day for the homeschool program my family is involved with. I helped out with the reception, which was a crazy, crazy ride. Long night, but I was really proud of all the kids who graduated.

Although, I’m not sure exactly when the cake decorator expected us to hold our graduation. Maybe they were so swamped with orders that they were hopeful that our order wasn’t to be filled until next year?

It was a great class; they really banded together well and defined “camaraderie.” Moving on!

Saturday, 29 May 2010 Graduation party for one of my students, and her colours were “Wicked” themed! The party was really fun; I hated to have to leave early, but work beckoned.

Sunday, 30 May 2010 Went to church, went to lunch, cleaned my room. Okay, not a hugely busy day, but still….

Monday, 31 May 2010 Memorial Day! Had a nice time hanging out with my family at my best friend’s house. She gave me my birthday gift tonight; The Romance of the Forest, Just Jane (about Jane Austen), and a purple “got books?” t-shirt. Does she know me or what?

That brings us the long, boring way to today. I simply hope that this convinces you, dear readers, that I’m not abandoning you! Life is crazy, but should setting down now that it’s June [insert maniacal laughter here].  I’ll be back with a more dignified and interesting blog post soon!

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5.5.2010

So, here’s my reasoning. 5+5=10. And 5+5+10=20. Therefore, 5.5.2010 deserves a special post. (I totally forgot that today is Cinco de Mayo- but that doesn’t concern my non-Spanish speaking self.) To mark this mathematically interesting day, I thought that I’d do some lists: my top 5 movies of all time, my 5 worst movies of all time, my 20 books that you MUST read, and my top 10 songs of all time. Let the counting begin!

Best Movies:

5. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

4. Two Week’s Notice

3. A&E Pride and Prejudice

2. Shadow of a Doubt

1. Relative Values

Worst Movies:

5. Murder, He said.. Interminable and insipid. To make a bad situation worse, it’s got this one character that sings a goofy little song through the movie, which gets stuck in your head for, say, ten years and counting.

4. The Long, Long Trailer. More like the long, long movie. I love Lucy and Desi, but this stretched my fandom too far.

3. You Can’t Take It With You. This might be a wonderful movie; unfortunately I can’t get past the fact that EVERYONE HAS TO YELL ALL THE TIME.

2. Life with Father. This is one uniquely talented director. He was given a great book, wonderful actors, and still he managed to produce a movie that sends me around the bend to even think about watching it again. Trust me, just read the book. You can thank me later.

1. It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Five words: four hours of Ethel Merman. *hits head repeatedly into a brick wall*

Must-Read Books:

20. The Westing Game

19. The Tempest

18. The Cellist of Sarajevo

17. Elsie Dinsmore

16. Fahrenheit 451

15. Beautiful Girlhood

14. Destination Unknown

13. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

12. Jack and Jill

11. Rose in Bloom

10. Hamlet

9. Macbeth

8. Great Expectations

7. Little Women

6. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

5. Northanger Abbey

4. The Man in the Brown Suit

3. The Chronicles of Narnia

2. Lord of the Rings

1. Jane Eyre

Best Songs Ever!

10. Haven’t Met You Yet- Michael Buble.

9. Touchdown Turnaround- Hellogoodbye

8. I Can Only Imagine- MercyMe

7. Santa Maria- Gotan Project

6. Softly As I Leave You- Michael Buble

5. When It All Is Said and Done- Robin Mark

4. Hey There Delilah- Plain White Tees

3. I’m Not That Girl- Wicked, The Musical

2. Home- Michael Buble

1. Held- Natalie Grant

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The Anti-Garden Path To Insanity

I’m posting to prove to you, my dear readers, that there is a reason I’ve not been posting more often- I’ve been writing papers like this. Thank you for being so faithful to check in with me! Over the summer I hope to be a little more faithful with my posting.

This paper is based on about the only enjoyable story I read in my American literature class this session. The story is narrated by a woman who is suffering from a slight nervous breakdown, and her doctor/husband takes her and their son to a new house for the summer. Unfortunately, he chooses to put them in a room with hideous, mottled, fading, peeling yellow wallpaper. This wallpaper eventually drives her to insanity; she first imagines that there’s a woman trapped behind the design of the paper, and in the end she thinks that she is that woman attempting to escape.

There’s another angle to the story, this connection with nature that she has in the beginning slowly fades as the story progresses. It is this perspective that I look at in this paper. So, here goes:

In Charlotte Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Gilman explores the inner workings of a woman’s mind. This is not a story of an ordinary, happy, carefree woman though. Instead, this woman is struggling with her grip on her family, health, and even her sanity. Through her decline and eventual mental breakdown, the only change in her life is in the amount of contact her husband, John, allows her to have with nature and the outside world. Thus, “The Yellow Wallpaper” exemplifies the idea that disconnection with nature facilitates a decline into insanity.

From the very beginning of the story, the woman admits to having had health issues recently. So far she, under her physician husband’s direction, has coped very well with her infirmity due to certain measures which included “air, and exercise.” Her only complaint with this method of treatment is that she wishes for a little more excitement, but overall she is content with her life and her stabilizing health. As she describes the summer home they have rented for the summer, she goes into raptures about the state of the grounds.

The most beautiful place!…It makes me think of English places that you read about, for there are hedges and walls and gates that lock, and lots of separate little houses for the gardeners and people. There is a delicious garden! I never saw such a garden—long and shady, full of box-bordered paths, and lined with long grape-covered arbors with seats under them.

The garden is the real focal point of the house for her. She is not fond of the building itself, nor of the room that John assigns to them for next three months of living. Again, her dissatisfaction only comes out of her love for, and need to connect with, nature. The room she wanted opened out on to the rose garden, but the room John chose is on the top floor—as far from the garden as is possible.

With the room and the hideous yellow wallpaper providing an effective barrier between the woman and the garden, she finds herself growing weaker and increasingly unable to leave her room. Despite her physical weakness and the ugliness of the paper in her room, the woman still does her best to connect with the natural setting that she cherishes so much. She writes about the views from the windows:

Out of one window I can see the garden, those mysterious deep-shaded arbors, the riotous old-fashioned flowers, and bushes and gnarly trees. Out of another I get a lovely view of the bay and a little private wharf belonging to the estate. There is a beautiful shaded lane that runs down there from the house.

Here the reader gleans the first inkling that the woman is not going to be mentally stable for much longer. As she glances out the window to the lane, she admits to the fact that her vivid imagination is beginning to take over reality, and she fancies that she sees people walking about.

As the summer wears on, she tries to keep her tenuous grip on her connection with nature. Even into July, she is able to get out from under the spell of the mysterious and all-consuming yellow wallpaper and make it into the garden. She writes that “I walk a little in the garden or down that lovely lane, sit on the porch under the roses, and lie down up here a good deal.” At the same time, her focus turns inward to the room and the wallpaper. By the middle of July she is spending hours gazing at the wallpaper, and ignoring her direct examination of nature. In fact, the only mention of natural elements comes from their attempts to make contact with her. She talks about that moonlight, and how “the moon shines in all night when there is a moon.” Even though she is not consciously attempting to connect with nature, it does its best to reach out to her.

These attempts at connection fail. The woman finds herself fixating on an unpleasant odor permeating the house, and she blames it on the natural elements she appreciated just weeks before. Too, she projects her paranoid tendencies on the natural setting; when she does look out the window at the natural settings, she sees the result of her dark fantasies:

I see her in that long shaded lane, creeping up and down. I see her in those dark grape arbors, creeping all around the garden. I see her on that long road under the trees, creeping along, and when a carriage comes she hides under the blackberry vines.

Nature, in the woman’s mind, has turned from being an escape and a respite to being just another arena for her imagination to dominate. Nature is tainted by her dark fancies, and by all apparent signs her madness is, at this point, complete.

As a final interaction with nature and a last example of how far her mental breakdown has gone, the woman uses a plantain leaf to hide the key that locks her husband out of the house. The transformation from health to insanity is complete in her life, and her use of nature proves this. Where at the beginning of the story nature provides an escape and a link to sanity, here at the end of the story nature has become a tool to aid and abet her madness.

While it is impossible to tell if the outcome would have changed had the woman been able to maintain a healthy connection with nature, during her lucid times she seems to think that nature would help her in her illness. She seems to know instinctively that a room opening up onto the gardens would be better for her than the horrid room at the top of the house. Although she tries her best to make the most out of a horrible room and living situation, her best efforts fail. In the end, she becomes as warped as the wallpaper in the room, the antithesis of the lovely, unblemished, holistic beauty that she could once admire in nature. As distortion sets into her brain, one of her last acts of madness is to turn nature to suit her own insane purposes. Her disconnection with nature is complete, as is her lapse into insanity.

Photo of Crepe Myrtles, taken at the Botanical Gardens last summer.

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