Gender Roles In The Yellow Wallpaper By Charlotte Perkins Gilman

2273 words - 10 pages

In “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the narrator and her husband John can be seen as strong representations of the effects society’s stereotypical gender roles as the dominant male and submissive female have within a marriage. Because John’s wife takes on the role as the submissive female, John essentially controlled all aspects of his wife’s life, resulting in the failure of the couple to properly communicate and understand each other. The story is intended to revolve around late 19th century America, however it still occurs today. Most marriages still follow the traditional gender stereotypes, potentially resulting in a majority of couples to uphold an unhealthy ...view middle of the document...

As a man, John is expected to maintain his status within society, while his wife is meant to remain as part of the second class: being powerless, juvenile and ultimately, submissive. We can see how the two characters overall maintain their roles as a man and woman when John’s wife states “John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no REASON to suffer, and that satisfies him.”(175) Through this text we can establish the idea that John could never truly understand what it feels like to be a part of the “second class” because he has always been seen as being a part of the dominant species. In the end of the text, however, we see something interesting: The narrator says, “He knows there is no reason to suffer, and that satisfies him”(175) Evidently, John along with all men within the late 19th century society, think it’s average that woman remain a lower status than men. This is an issue because when a human is received an overall acceptance of their dominance because of just their gender, it is inevitable for them to carry out their dominant traits in their relationships as well.
Possessing separate gender roles within a marriage brings conflict to equality and communication. If the man in the relationship is holding all the dominance, therefore holding all the control, how can these two qualities possibly be met? Marriage is much more than just developing love for each other. Couples need to be able to understand each other on both an emotional and physical level if they want to fulfill a happy marriage. In the beginning of the short story, we immediately are provided with evidence of the effect the couple’s gender roles have on their marriage through the narrator’s writing.
“You see he does not believe I am sick and what can one do? If a physician of high standing, and one's Own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression—a slight hysterical tendency—what is one to do?” (173)

John’s wife claims she is sick, but her husband disregards her beliefs, saying it is nothing more than a “temporary nervous depression- a slight hysterical tendency.”(173) Since John is both a physician and a man, his wife feels she must then agree with his assumptions, whether she likes it or not. On the other hand, John feels she must agree with his ideas solely for the reason that he feels he knows more than her. We specifically see the narrator say, “What is one to do?” twice mentioned in the quotation, and then a third time when expressing her own beliefs later when she says, “Personally, I disagree with their ideas. Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good. But what is one to do?”(173) We can see that the narrator’s writing is not being directly expressed to her husband, but to anyone but him. Through this analysis, we can conclude that the narrator’s husband is not only undermining the...

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