The Orange Bedding

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
Imitation story of The Yellow Wallpaper with analysis

Submitted: May 09, 2017

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Submitted: May 09, 2017

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The Orange Bedding

It is very seldom that a couple takes the traditional way anymore: nice house, picket fence, and typical family values. My husband Charles and I hardly do anything outside of the norm.

One day, we found this perfect little baby crib for our newest addition. I wanted to wait until we knew the sex of the baby to buy the bedding, but Charles insisted we buy a neutral orange now.

Charles, of course, being the voice of reason, decided we buy what we can while it is on sale now. He tells me I spend too much money anyways. Charles, being a doctor, works hard for his money and disapproves of my spending it. I am hoping that with the baby we can finally agree on a more relaxed budget.

Charles emphasizes my health quite frequently. He makes a point to remind me of exercise and healthy eating. To me, that shows great interest in my health, but he oftentimes forgets to listen to me after a long day of listening to patients.

The day our baby was born was the happiest day of my life. I remember holding the baby with everyone visiting us in the hospital. Personally, I think being around people helps my mood, but Charles and mother do not think it is best with my current state.

The first week home from the hospital was wonderful. Charles took off work to make sure I was fine from the delivery. Whenever I felt upset, he would assure me everything was fine. Charles and I both took care of our baby girl, Clarissa. (I would not dare to say this to anyone, but babies are much too cumbersome for my liking. Maybe as Clarissa ages, our bond will grow stronger.) However, I did the womanly duties of the house, but Charles, being as loving as he is, cleaned and cooked for me the day I returned home from the hospital.

Charles truly cared for Clarissa’s health. As a physician, he often told me the great benefits of breast feeding and urged me to continually try when I failed. He would oftentimes tell me:

“Breast feeding creates a bond like no other, darling. Not only does it help emotionally, but also the physical nutrition will help Clarissa developmentally.”

At the mention of those words, I would go into the baby’s nursery and sit in the rocker, trying for ultimately hours on end, directly staring at the orange bedding with the fan blowing on me. Eventually, I would cry or sob until Charles came in. He would take the baby and place her in that lovely white crib with gaudy orange bedding.

“Can we please change the orange? I sit here for hours on end to no effect staring at the orange that would be much better in pink,” I habitually tell him after every failed attempt feeling like a child who cannot learn to read.

“The orange brightens the room, and there is no need to buy another one. With the breast-feeding, it will work, my girl. Your maternal instinct will take over.”

I loved the white crib, but the orange bedding never appeased me. The color constantly circled through my mind.

Finally, Charles had to return to work. It was my first day alone with the baby. She cried incessantly. I tried feeding her and afterwards, she began to cry again.  I attempted to rock her, hold her, walk around the house with her, but nothing ever worked. I thought to myself of how would I survive. After the first few days, I began to become angry with the baby and Charles. I wondered what would happen if I was gone. Every time I placed the baby in that ugly orange bedding, I only became angrier. The orange reminded me of my powerlessness towards the baby and Charles. Eventually, I avoided going into the nursery because of the orange bedding. If the baby cried in the crib, I avoided going to get her. I quit taking her in there. I placed her in my and Charles’s bed, right in my spot. Fans made me dizzy anymore as well and I kept them off at the house.

One day I dared to mention my feelings to Charles.

“I just do not think I am fit to be a mother.”

“Of course you are. You are simply stressed. Things will get better as Clarissa grows older.”

“I still cannot feed her. She will not stop crying. No matter what I do, I still cannot help her.” I complained to him. I am sure he grew tired of my incessant childish complaining just as I grew tired of the baby’s incessant crying.

“I know what you need, honey. Tonight, after you cook supper, I will watch Clarissa. How about you call your mother? She can come and help you tomorrow with Clarissa. I’ll even call her tonight.” With genuine concern, he smiled at me as he said it.

I simply told him that was fine and finished cooking. After dinner, I went to bed. The anger began to circle within me. I stared at the ceiling. I stared at the wall, at the little light slipping through the window, at the fan spinning and never stopping. I heard quiet. How did he get that crying baby to be quiet? I walked into the living room. He sat on the couch watching TV, oblivious to me. I think that is ok; he was not the one I was worried about. I walked in the nursery. There the baby lay on top of the orange bedding. Quiet. She looked trapped in the crib’s bars and the orange bedding, which seemed awfully close to prison jumpsuits.

“I’m going to go buy pink bedding tomorrow or ask my mother to pick it up on her way over here.”

“Oh dear, you scared me. Don’t sneak up on me like that, quiet as a mouse. And I’ve told you about the orange bedding, let it go. Your hormones are spinning now. Once they calm down, you will see there is no need to buy a new one. Do not ask your mother either. She will think that I can’t even provide for you. Aren’t you supposed to be in bed now?” He returned his gaze to the television.

“But the orange reminds me of a prison jumpsuit” I responded, head cast down. I truly did not have the energy to argue, but I kept thinking of the bedding.

“Sweetheart, just go to bed. We’ll talk about it in the morning.” The eyes returned to the TV. I walked to the bedroom. Now, I understand he wanted me to be well rested, but I felt he did not take my opinion seriously. I lay in bed, eventually dreaming of my baby in a prison cell.

I woke up to the revolting smell of bacon, reminding me of my childhood when my mother impatiently yelled at me to get ready while standing over popping grease. Within a few hours, my mother has managed to keep the baby quiet and fix breakfast. I felt chained to the bed by my guilt of inadequacy. The tears pooled at the edge of my pillow. If it was not the baby, it was I crying.

My mother had all the fans running in the house to keep the bacon smell circulating. She told me Clarissa still slept. Between her voice, the TV, and the smell of bacon, I felt disoriented and went to open the window. There was an orange bird sitting on the windowsill. The bird almost flew inside before I quickly shut the window. The bird had to stay outside, and I had to stay inside.

“Did you see the orange bird outside?” I asked my mother. The bacon was floppy sort of like the wings on a bird would. I hate floppy bacon. It seems like it is not cooked well enough and it will make someone sick. Why would anyone want to make someone sick with floppy bacon? Was my mother trying to make me sick? Why would she want me sick? There the bird flapped outside.

“No, I have been cooking and cleaning all morning. My, I hope Charles doesn’t think you learned housekeeping from me. You know, Clarissa really needs a cleaner house. What if she has asthma? Have you thought about getting a humidifier?” Mom rambled on and I set the table. Maybe one of these days my child would be setting the table.

At even my thought of her, Clarissa began to cry. I arose from the table, as did my mother. I let her get her granddaughter to avoid the revolting orange bedding.  When she walked in, I took her from her and simply said feeding time.

I sat the baby on the bed. “Alright, my mother is here. We have to get this right today.” She didn’t listen. I did not knoww how I was going to have a relationship in the future if she did not listen to me now. She loved mine and Charles’s bed, seemed peaceful in it too. Maybe she did not like the orange bedding either. Why would Charles be so adamant about something that we both did not like?

“We supplement her diet with milk.” I lied to my mother. I was not a child anymore- she did not need to know my whole life.  My mother already had a bottle ready.

-----

“Why does my mother have to come here?” I asked in bed unmoving. He was standing up at the dresser from what I could see as the tears clouded my eyes.

“She is helping you. The house looked great today and supper was excellent. Aren’t you enjoying this extra time with Clarissa?” He spoke away from me.

“I can’t handle her. I can’t handle her. She treats me like a child.” The tears flowed. The fan made the comforter blow up a little, giving some freedom to my feet, but flopped back down enclosing me. “Don’t let her come back again. Please. Please. I can’t take another day of her.” My words muffled with my sobs. He looked confusedly at me and urged me to go to sleep. The conversation was over. He pulled the covers up to my chin, similar to closing the window like I did on the bird.

The next morning he hadn’t gone to work when I awoke. No bacon. I smiled in triumph. I felt in control for the first time since the birth of my baby. Charles told me we were going to his practice that day. He said my mother would be there in an hour to watch the baby and told me to get ready.

I started worrying at the doctors. What if they thought I was crazy? My mother would treat even more so like a child if I was diagnosed with a mental illness. I could not have a mental illness anyways. I was normal from a normal family with a normal background. Orange caught my eye. At the doctor’s office, they had an orange magazine entitled “Happy Family.”

-----

Maybe I lied to the other doctor. He wasn’t my husband. Charles would never know. I kept thinking how I would look on the cover of an orange magazine as an example of a modern happy family. I think that stretches my limits, but if I were to do it, I have to control my emotions. I walked out, waited for Charles, no emotions. He asked my diagnosis. I told him that the doctor concluded it was stress and I was to keep doing what my husband said. You should have seen the proud look on his face.

I went home and straight to the baby. Mother rocked the baby in the nursery. My vision caught the orange bedding. I asked for my child and mother complied shockingly. I looked at my child. Mother dressed her in orange pajamas with a fox. So as my child slept, I placed my child in her prison cell and then went to mine.

-----

The next days passed the same as before the doctor without the conversations with Charles. One day, as I was holding the baby, I wanted her to see the orange bird. I took her outside to see it. The bird was chirping, but I could not hear it for the baby’s crying. I hushed the baby to no avail. Either the baby or I cried, but I would not cry anymore. I went inside and told mother I was going to take a nice bath. She was cleaning so I placed the baby in her crib with her orange bedding. Maybe one day Charles would get rid of the orange bedding. I could not stand it any longer. I yanked the orange bedding off and threw it in the closet. Charles would never find it. I laid the baby on the crib’s mattress. A sigh of relief transposed into her freedom. I turned the fan on for the baby, the whirl of the fan calming her. Silence.

I went to the bathroom and turned the fan on. Well, that made the bathroom cold so I set the bath water to as hot as it would go. The scald on my skin feels nice and soothing. It makes my mind blank. I let my hair down until the edges dip in the water. The fan still keeps going. I should have turned it off. Why didn’t I turn it off? How can I take care of a baby if I can’t even remember to turn off a fan? I shift my body and the new hot spots made my mind blank again. Then I see it. Charles’s orange razor. What was his obsession with orange? Charles had told me where the major arteries where. I wonder if prisoners like wearing orange, how orange covers everything, even arms, legs. The scald again calms my mind. Could I do it forever? I’m sure I would be a much better mother if I could just calm my mind. That would be best for Charles and Clarissa if I could calm it forever.

Madness in Marriage and Motherhood

Societal expectations of women lead to hysterical episodes, depression, suicide, and even infanticide. “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman illustrates the patriarchy’s expectations towards housewives and mental illness, resulting in mental insanity. In my short story “The Orange Bedding,” societal expectations trap the narrator through limiting views involving motherhood and again mental illness. Similarly, I emulate Gilman’s symbolism, diction, and point of view to criticize society’s restrictions. However, I modify the causes and the ending to better conform to today’s time period.

Comparable to Gilman, symbolism within the stories critiques women’s restrictions. For example, while Gilman uses the yellow wallpaper, I likewise utilize the orange bedding to portray the narrator’s imprisonment. As with Gilman’s short story, the yellow wallpaper symbolizes obsession with escaping imprisonment and lack of control. “The faint figure behind seemed to shake the pattern, just as if she wanted to get out” (Gilman). Within my short story, the narrator obsesses over the orange bedding and perceives it as prison for her daughter that will later equate to the narrator’s marital relationship and inability to exert power as she states: “I lay in bed, eventually dreaming of my baby in a prison cell” (Burchette 4). The orange bedding and yellow wallpaper illustrate the result of society: women’s incapability. The orange bird and the girl outside both further the symbolism of entrapment. For Gilman’s narrator, the woman worries over the girl outside and the reader does not know if she’s truly there: “I can see her out of every one of my windows” (Gilman).  For my narrator, the orange bird exemplifies her entrapment and the others’ disbelief. Both the girl outside and the bird indicate the narrator’s isolation. Additionally, the stories both contain the symbolism of the bed as representing bondage. In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the narrator describes herself as chained to the bed: “lie here on this great immovable bed… But I can write when she is out, and - it is nailed down, I believe.” Correspondingly, the narrator in “The Orange Bedding” describes her bed as her “prison cell” (Burchette 7) and also confined to the bed while Charles looks down on her during their conversations. The bed serves as a reminder of the housewives and stay-at-home mothers’ oppression. Within “The Orange Bedding,” the orange bedding, orange bird, and the bed emulate the symbolism of Gilman’s yellow wallpaper, girl outside, and the bed to prove societal expectations on women in marriage and motherhood lead to their imprisonment. The replications of symbolism chastise societal expectations for women.

In terms of modifying symbolism, I add the fan to illustrate the cycle of mental illnesses without treatment and also create an excessive quality of symbolism throughout the novel. The fan appears frequently throughout “The Orange Bedding” to demonstrate the cycle involved with Postpartum Depression. For many women, postpartum depression forces women to feel disconnected from their partners and child leading them to feel more depressed and further detached, creating a cycle of depression. Some may argue that “The Orange Bedding” features an excess of symbolism; however, I add many symbolic elements to correlate to the mind of someone with postpartum depression. For those with mental illnesses, everything means something more than what others understand. Therefore, I purposefully modify the symbolism to create an overabundance to mimic the uncontrollable mind. Even with the modifications to symbolism, both Gilman’s work and mine criticizes women’s confinement.

In addition to symbolism, I also chose to emulate the story in terms of diction. For Gilman, her writing style of adding “I think” or “personally” enhances how she portrays women. In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the narrator begins opinions with tags to show the opinions are only hers. While seemingly redundant since the reader can infer the narrator thinks that, the tags illustrate how often society told the narrator of her wrong ideas. Therefore, the narrator feels it necessary to add these ideas only represent her thoughts and not society’s. Similarly, I reciprocate this diction to enhance the disbelief my narrator from others. As evident with Charles’s opinions, the narrator feels rejected and thinks it necessary to inform the readers her opinions do not portray the same ideas as Charles, her mother, or society. The disclaimer serves as a beginning apology, as if she knows what she says will be wrong. The tag critiques society’s degradation of women’s ideas. Similar to Gilman, the diction in “The Orange Bedding” disapproves of women’s limitations from culture.

 Additionally, the point of view within “The Orange Bedding” parallels to “The Yellow Wallpaper.” In both of the stories, the first person narrator allows the readers to connect to the reader and empathize with her. The connection between the narrator and the reader creates empathy that furthers the purpose of writing- to criticize societal expectations for women. The first person narrator also remains unnamed, which allows the reader to conclude the probability of mental illnesses affecting all women. Additionally, the readers can understand what happens in the mind of women with mental illness. For example in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” through first person point of view, the readers can see the narrator’s assent to insanity. Similarly in “The Orange Bedding,” the first person point of view allows the reader to see the clear causes of the narrator’s distress. The point of view enables the reader to sympathize with the narrators. The sympathy further translates into looking for prevention by changing societal views of women. In both “The Orange Bedding” and “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the first person point of view enhances the criticisms toward society.

In contrast to Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” I modify the causes to better correlate to the time period and the specific illness.  While both still blame society, in my short story I also blame the narrator to emphasize the stigma associated with mental illness. In current times, those with mental illness often do not seek because of stigmas associated with mental illness, which further damages their health. Similarly, the narrator within my short story also has stigmas against mental illness- the mentality thinking only certain people have them. The stigma ultimately sends her into the self-harm she spirals into. The narrator has the opportunity to receive specific care for her illness, but chooses not to due to stigmas: “I kept thinking how I would look on the cover of an orange magazine as an example of a modern happy family … if I were to do it, I have to control my emotions” (Burchette). While the narrator faults in her lack of treatment, the source of her stigmas originated from society. Also, in contrast to “The Yellow Wallpaper the source of her problems obviously stem from motherhood instead of marriage. With motherhood, society places more expectations on women to attach themselves to their children, breastfeed, and enjoy the time with them. However, the majority of women cannot achieve these tasks and feel ashamed when they remain incapable. Even with the differences of causes, both short stories criticize societal biases towards women.

Additionally, I chose to modify the ending of “The Orange Bedding.” In the “Yellow Wallpaper,” while the readers do not what happen to the narrator after her episode, they do know that circumstances forced the narrator into a maniac episode of acting like child or pet. However in “The Orange Bedding,” the readers do not know whether the narrator went back to life and cried every night for two years until the depression left, as many women do. They do not know if she began self-harm or even killed herself. Because of the lack of suicides from postpartum depression, while they are still prevalent, I hesitated to make the story end in something that affects only a small population. However, all women with post-partum depression have felt inadequate as mothers and wishing to change as the narrator does. The open-ended ending allows more readers to connect with the narrator, furthering the purpose to criticize society. While the ending in “The Orange Bedding” remains ambiguous and the other more secure, both aid in rejecting biased expectations for women.

The tragedy of marriage and motherhood does not appear in Bridal magazines or diaper commercials. However, for many women, the unknown tragedy forces women into depression and hysterics. As exemplified in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, many women feel confined within a housewife role, despite society urging them to feel grateful. As evident in “The Orange Bedding,” motherhood often confines women even with society dictating motherhood as the satisfying jobs. Both lead to illness. Similar to Gilman, I emulate Gilman’s symbolism, diction, and point of view to criticize society’s axioms of entrapment. However, I adapt the causes and the ending to resonate within today’s time.

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Burchette, Abby. “The Orange Bedding.” 6 Apr. 2017, unpublished, Salem College.

Gillman, Charlotte Perkins. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” NLM. www.nlm.nih.gov/ exhibition/theliteratureofprescription/exhibitionAssets/digitalDocs/The-Yellow-Wall-Paper.pdf. PDF. 


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