what is it? What induces it? What drives it? Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher", and Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" are two quite incredible short stories of madness, though they are both different in scenario. This essay is meant to discuss the nature and significance of madness as represented in these two stories.
What is madness? Craziness? Questions that are easily asked, but not so easily answered. That is because madness in our society is a term used quite liberally, and is often overused jokingly so much that it loses something in its meaning. According to the New Merriam-Webster Pocket Dictionary, (pub.1970) Madness is the noun of mad, which is disordered in mind, being rash and foolish, furious, enraged, frantic, carried away by enthusiasm, wildly gay, or rabid. It could also be described as the result of the loss of ones sanity. This could be temporary, or it could be permanent, assumedly both are caused by different things. Permanent madness is generally caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, or extreme conditions inflicted on the psyche. Temporary madness can be caused by a vast range of things, and can affect anyone.
Temporary madness can lead to permanent madness, as was shown in Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper". We know the woman in this story begins as sane, and then becomes .
"Sick", as she calls it. If she had been given the proper care, then she could have become well again. But since no care was given, only confinement, she is pretty much beyond repair.
In the case of Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher", the madness of Roderick Usher is likely a chemical imbalance called schizophrenia. The New Lexicon Webster's Dictionary, (pub.1991), cites that this is "a common mental disease whose characteristics may include separation of the intellect from the emotions, inappropriate emotional reactions, distortions in normal logical thought processes, withdrawal from social relationships, delusions, hallucinations, and split personalities".