Kate Chopin’s the most well-known work The Awakening and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” both initially published in 1899, present astoundingly analogous stories of the role of women in society. Both texts are narrated from the point of view of a female protagonist who breaks away from the restraining conventions of a male-ruled society before eventually emancipating through separation from the thinking world, via suicide in The Awakening and insanity in “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Some would argue that the narrators are unreliable and the stories are misrepresented simply because women themselves are of an imperfection, either through being mentally unstable or through their rampant libido. Yet what is substantial is the understanding that both women would rather leave behind their sanity and life than suffer from the shackles of subordination, because separation from the thinking world is the only way to obtain complete freedom in a domineering male-ruled society.
The topic of women’s emancipation and empowerment is especially interesting in Chopin’s and Gilman’s works because each protagonist has to fall back upon extreme means to attain it. Chopin’s Edna Pontellier, even after leaving her husband’s house, still does not feel contented and has to resort to drowning herself to achieve the ultimate escape. In a like manner, the female protagonist of Gilman, overcoming the limitations of physical imprisonment and isolation from society, eventually descends into madness as the only mean to escape her physical and mental entrapment.
Some might argue that one is not able to draw a conclusion from the texts that getaway from the conscious world is the only usable mean to obtain freedom because the protagonists have substantial emotional and psychological flaws and consequently are unreliable narrators. In fact, it is fair to state that the picks of an emotionally or mentally unstable character are not representative of all women. Yet Edna and Gilman’s protagonist are women who receive their imperfections through their surroundings; the carnality and madness are the results of their oppression. Until the happenings of The Awakening, Edna has been married to Mr. Pontellier for a long time. She goes through her awakening after a vacation in the Grand Isle, but before, she has been a subordinate wife without any doubts in accordance to her role. Just as Mrs. Pontellier begins the story as an average, sensible woman, the main character of “The Yellow Wallpaper” begins as a mentally secure person. Gilman’s heroine depicts the “garden - large and shady, full of box-bordered paths”, the “pretty old-fashioned chintz hangings”, and even “those sprawling flamboyant patterns” of the wallpaper in an ultimately sensible manner, what serves as an indicator of her capability of thinking and speaking from a rational standpoint (Gilman 4, 5). What is more, she is sent away to the mansion not because of the fact that she has...