The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

SE professor uses ‘yellow wallpaper’ to explain structural analysis

by Jackie Stevenson/reporter

A SE English professor introduced a technique to help students struggling with their English composition papers.

To Vicki Sapp, the answer for analyzing literary works and improve their writing is structural analysis. She said that means to deconstruct a story and look at its literary elements to understand it.

On Nov. 2, she used the short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, to explain structural analysis.

“I have always taught this story at a structural level,” she said.

In the story, a woman is suffering from post-partum depression, depression that happens after childbirth. In the story’s time, mental illnesses are not understood. In response, her husband locks her in a room believing it will help her. Due to his lack of understanding, her condition worsens.

“In the beginning of the story, the narrator is insane,” she said.

Sapp said a student can tell this through the grammar element of structural analyzation. The paragraphs are short, which means the narrator is expressing agitation, anxiety or stress.

Another aspect is punctuation. Sapp said the abundance of exclamation points and dashes reveals the narrator’s frustration and rage.

Sapp also discussed the literary structure of the story, another element of structural analysis. To analyze literary structure, a student should observe the plot, theme, narrative and other literary devices.

“My theory is that in every story, the theme is encoded in the first 14 lines,” she said.

In this story, the narrator’s husband forbids her from writing, and Sapp said that reveals a major theme. She called this the master narrative, which in this case was the patriarchy, referring to a society dominated by males.

“Repetition in stories represents the theme,” she said.

Sapp pointed out that throughout the story, the narrator mentions how her husband dismisses her emotions, confirming the story’s patriarchal theme.

Sapp also went over documents relating to “The Yellow Wallpaper.”  Quoting authors who suffered from post-partum depression, she used structural analysis to note the similarities between their writing and the story’s.

“Why structural analysis?” Sapp asked students. “You can’t always look at the lived truth of a story and know what is going on.”

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