Many stories through out history include a beautiful woman in need of rescue, a damsel in distress. I have chosen two to compare, Rapunzel and The Yellow Wallpaper.
In Rapunzel by Paul Zelinsky, Rapunzel is locked away in a tower with no stairs or door in complete solitude, except for the short visits from the enchantress that locked her away. A prince happens by and hears her singing and falls in love. They construct a plan for Rapunzel's escape, only to be found out by the enchantress. Rapunzel is then banned to a desert and the prince blindly roams the land heart broken. Years later, the prince hears Rapunzel and runs towards her. Her tears restore his eye sight and the prince, Rapunzel, and their twin children return to the prince's kingdom.
The Yellow Wallpaper
In The Yellow Wallpaper, a young woman suffering from a "nervous" condition moves into a colonial mansion with her husband, a doctor, for the summer to improve her condition. She discusses how she loves the house and how beautiful everything is, except for the wretched yellow wallpaper. She is under doctor's orders to rest, get fresh air, and exercise. She is not allowed visitors and doesn't dare see her new child due to her condition. As time passes her obsession with the wallpaper strengthens and the wallpaper eventually takes on a life of its own. The pattern begins to form eyes and then at night she sees a woman imprisoned within the wallpaper, held there by the pattern. She realizes the woman escapes during the day and decides to rip all the paper down By the end she realizes the woman trapped with in the wallpaper is her.
The Breakdown of the Damsels
There are many similarities in these two stories. Both have Damsels that are locked away by loved ones. Both are not allowed visitors and are lonely. Both were left in solitude most of the time. Both long to be freed of their prison. These things fit well within the typical Damsel in Distress Archetype. However, these stories also divert from the stereotypical damsel in distress. In Rapunzel, the prince is saved from his heart break, aimless roaming, and blindness by Rapunzel. In The Yellow Wallpaper, the young woman is in need of rescuing from herself, who she had projected into a woman trapped in the wretched yellow wallpaper, and attempted to save her.
Zelinsky, Paul O. Rapunzel. New York: Dutton Children's, 1997. Print.
Baym, Nina, and Robert S. Levine. "The Yellow Wallpaper." Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 8th ed. Vol. 2. New York: W. W. Norton, 2012. 485-97. Print.
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