How Gender Criticism Is Displayed In Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper".

1368 words - 5 pages

Prior to the twentieth century, men defined and assigned women roles. Traditionally, it was the men who held power in the pre-modern society. Women have been treated as second-rate individuals with minimal constitutional rights and the inability to gain respect for their male counterparts. Feminist critics believe that culture has so been involved by training women to accept their secondary status while encouraging young men to take control (Gioia, Gwynn, 895). Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" tells the story about a delusional woman that tumbles into insanity as a result of the reflection she sees in this wallpaper. One perception of the wallpaper is that she sees a reflection of herself within the walls, trapped, and desperately she tries to free herself. More importantly, the story is about attacking the roles of women in society. The narrator can generally represent all females living in that time frame of the nineteenth century. In "The Yellow Wallpaper" we see the society of the nineteenth century through three different characters: the dominant husband John, the submissive sister Jennie and the narrator who becomes more socially aware of her surroundings as time progresses. By decomposing these three characters, we can fully understand the gender criticism portrayed in America in the nineteenth century.The controlling husband John can be symbolically characterized as the male centerpiece during Gilman's lifetime. The way the author describes John is somewhat of a dominant character, he treats his wife as a child and in no way his equal counterpart. John places his wife in a room that is designed for children to be looked after. "It is a big, airy room, the whole floor nearly, with windows that look all ways, and air and sunshine galore. It was nursery first and then playroom and gymnasium, I should judge; for the windows are barred for little children" (Gilman, 298). The narrator is isolated in this room, while John gets to experience the outer world. The "barred windows" represents a jail cell as John treats his wife as a disobedient patient of his. During Gilman's time, the men would go out to work while the women would serve to be the housewife. Symbolically the narrator said, "I am sitting by the window now, up in this atrocious nursery… John is away all day, and even some nights when his cases are serious" (Gilman, 298). The readers can recognize the narrator is acting as a "housewife" while John is "away all day". John also being a physician believes that his wife is suffering from some illness. His wife's actions are always inadequate in his point of view. He discourages her from writing, even though writing as always been perceived as his wife's greatest passions. "There comes John, and I must put this away,--he hates to have me write a word" (Gilman, 298). The idea of John's internal dominant behavior is a theme that is centered to the story. John attempts to control or limit what she does, what she is...

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