September 19, 2012
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Birthmark, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, and William Wordsworth’s poem “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” each represent community service in their own ways, and indirectly state that it is important to care for others and reflect on what you have done for them, and that this is extremely important to complete in our lives. Even though during the two stories the reader does not directly learn about community service, some aspects of this topic are taken from these stories. For the poem as well, service is not actually read about but instead a critical thing within the topic of community service can be found. These three writings can be connected to a mission I went on with Operation Smile to Chiapas, Mexico in 2011 where I was a student volunteer helping out the children with facial deformities that were getting prepared for surgery. The actions done in the stories are things one would never do when helping out others, but the reader can learn from these mistakes, yet in the poem the speaker’s reflection on his life can be connected easily to my mission.
In The Birthmark, Aylmer, a scientist, is terrified by his wife’s “crimson birthmark stamped upon her cheek.” She has had this from when she was a newborn, but her husband can simply not tolerate it, and as the story moves along his anger towards it gets worse and worse. Because of all the talk about this mark, Georgiana seems to gradually agree with him. They both decide it is time to come off, so Aylmer wants to remove it, and it eventually fades, but at the end his wife dies from drinking a concoction that slowly kills her. It is very unfortunate that this man, blessed with a beautiful wife, can still be bothered by the one mark on her face. The idea of community service is obviously not quickly noticed in this story. However, on my mission I met a lot of children with facial deformities, but by no means did any of the volunteers treat them any differently because of it. Yes, most of them received surgeries because having a cleft lip or cleft palate is dangerous as it affects eating and drinking, but still they are still human beings and deserve to be treated fairly no matter how they look. Readers can see this importance of treating others with kindness because they can notice how Aylmer treats his poor wife, and hopefully do not want to repeat his actions.
The Yellow Wallpaper, a story about a woman who writes down everything about how she is very nervous about the wallpaper in her summer house because of thoughts in her head about women creeping and the unknown pattern of the paper, shows another conflict about treating people. This woman is suffering from anxieties and nerves, yet her husband, John, who is a doctor, laughs at her constantly when she claims she is sick. She writes down, “but John says the very worst thing I can do is think about my condition, and I confess it always makes me feel bad.” She desires her husband’s help, and even though he assumes he is assisting her, he really is not because by the end she has completely gone mad. Again, this is another reason why community service is so important and needed since there are people who really do need help in the world. Of course these types of conditions like the one the woman has in the story would require a doctor, but assisting someone to get help like I did on my mission when I helped the kids prepare for their surgery, is the right thing to do.
In the poem titled “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,” the speaker thinks about things he has seen in his life. Even if he just sits on his couch thinking he still “wanders lonely as a cloud,” and this can represent him looking upon all the things he wants to think about. He reflects on his life, too, even though the reader does not learn about the exact things he has done in his life. “They flash upon that inward eye which is the bliss of solitude, and then my heart with pleasure fills, and dances with the daffodils,” can show something positive has happened and he enjoys thinking about this and reflecting on it. This can represent reflecting on my mission since I am constantly thinking about it and all of the good things I did while I was there. It is important to reflect on past service to know what you did to help others, and to have the desire to strive to help again. Someone could easily be involved in some form of service where they simply go, do what they are supposed to do, leave, then never think about it again. This seems easy enough, but it is far more important to realize all the good that has been completed, and to know how to help others so that this can be done again in the future.
The husbands in each of the stories clearly did not show love towards their wives. Aylmer could have accepted his wife for what she looked like, and John could have helped out his wife and seek to get her the help she needed. The reader can learn from these stories by realizing it is critical to help others and accept them for who they are, even though the main characters did not. Unlike these men, the speaker in the poem demonstrates a positive action which is to think about what has been done for the better in life. Helping others, accepting them, and reflecting on past experiences can all be reasons for why community service is so important, and just like on and after my mission, I surely did all these three things, and continue to want to service others because not only is it the right thing to do, but I enjoy it as well and know that it is important to do this in life.