Confined Women Of The Nineteenth Century

2624 words - 10 pages

In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth, both authors provide evidence for readers to conceptualize the stories through the critical lens of feminism. “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a story about the unnamed narrator who is taken to an ancestral home by her husband John to be treated for her nervous depression. Meanwhile, she develops a strong dislike for the yellow wallpaper in the bedroom that the narrator is restricted to. The narrator ultimately becomes hopelessly insane in hopes of relieving the women trapped by the wallpaper. Similarly, The House of Mirth tells the story of Lily Bart, a young woman who is trapped by societal standards. She struggles between the relationship of riches, love, and respect. Lily never achieves her goal of marking her status as a social elite because she overdoses and dies at the end of the novel. The narrator of “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Lily from The House of Mirth both struggle throughout their womanhood. Edith Wharton and Charlotte Gilman use different point of views to emphasize how eternal forces, such as entrapment, powerlessness, and subordinance of women ultimately lead to their overwhelming confinement in the nineteenth century society.
In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Gilman immediately gives readers the most important elements at the beginning of the short fictional story. At the opening of the story, the narrator states how her husband John has brought their family to live in an ancestral home for the summer. The narrator considers the house to be strange, but John is quite too practical to see things the way that she does. He already fails to believe that the narrator is actually sick. The narrator begins to take readers on her ever-changing conscious journey as she ponders, “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” (Gilman 679). The narrator opposes the opinions of her husband very passively because she has no voice. Her agitation is expressed in her secret journal, which begins to figuratively exemplify the dilemmas that the narrator truly faces. The narrator is then forced to stay in a large, airy bedroom where her hatred for the yellow wallpaper eventually becomes an obsession as a symbol of her state of mind. In The House of Mirth, Wharton allows readers to grasp the motives of Lily Bart, a beautiful twenty-nine year old woman on the search for a rich husband. Lily aims to climb the social ladder, but suffers terribly from her defeats. The narrator has readers to experience the difficulty of Lily’s journey as she explains how Lily “was so evidently the victim of the civilization which had produced her, that the links of her bracelet seemed like manacles chaining her to her fate” (Wharton 6). Since childhood, Lily is taught that she must conform to the expectations of...

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