Gender Roles In Two Literary Works

1428 words - 6 pages

The short stories The Revolt of Mother by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman and The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman both have strong central themes dealing with gender roles and the domestic life that confined nineteenth century women. While the women in both of these stories change the protagonist in the Freeman story takes positive control of her situation and facilitates dynamic change in her life, while woman in the Gilman story slips into insanity. Both stories use figurative language in the form of symbolism, and irony, to illustrate the themes and to set the tone for the story. Both rely on diction to add depth to the characters.
Both stories share common central theme of negative female gender identification and the lesser role of women in the nineteenth century as compared to men of the same era. In the short story The Revolt of Mother the central character Sara is a wife of forty years whose husband Adoniram is more concerned about barns and outbuildings for his farm than of bringing his family home and living conditions up to standard. In the work The Yellow Wallpaper the central character is a wife in a middle-class marriage who is experiencing what appears to be post partum depression. Her psychological treatment is a type of quasi sensory deprivation which involves her being sequestered in a room where she becomes preoccupied with the patterns on the wallpaper. In both stories the women are expected to live in a childlike state of unawareness stifling their development and aspirations. In The Yellow Wallpaper the husband refers to his adult wife as a child when he states “What is it, little girl?”(Gilman). The farm wife in The Revolt of Mother is told by her husband to “tend to your own affairs” (Freeman) when she questions new construction on the site of her long awaited home. She is expected to be satisfied to live within the confines of a tiny “box of a house"(Freeman) just as the middle class wife in The Yellow Wallpaper is expected to live in her cloister.
Both Freeman and Gilman make use of figurative language to convey their central themes. Particularly strong is the use of symbolism. Both stories involve wallpaper, in The Revolt of Mother reference is made to the old cheap wallpaper which the wife placed on the walls of her small home in an attempt to improve a substandard dwelling , in this case the wallpaper represents her ambition and hope which over the course of time transforms into regret and anger. In the story The Yellow Wallpaper the reader learns that the woman sees the wall paper as a type of prison bar system used to confine her. This represents the domestic life which entraps and imprisons so many women. The wallpaper is common and humble, its ugliness and odd patterns become a fascination to the woman and she obsesses in deciphering its meaning. This is symbolic of her trying to understand the patterns of the roles and lives of women in her society. As the woman gazes at the paper she sees the faces...

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