Theme Of Isolation In Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, Steinbeck’s The Chrysanthemums And Chopin’s The Awakening

1607 words - 6 pages

Despite differing story lines, Charlotte Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, John Steinbeck’s The Chrysanthemums and Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, depict the same suffering; the isolation that women have been forced to endure throughout history. In the time period that all three characters were placed, it was culturally acceptable for wives to be dominated by their husbands; their responsibility revolving around the needs of their children and those of their spouse. Most women simply did not have a means or an idea of how to rebel against their husbands. The women in all three stories are protagonists who have poor relationships of emotional attachment with their spouses. While the main character of Gilman’s story endures multiple psychotic breaks, Elisa Allen of Steinbeck’s piece is quite the opposite: a very strong and powerful woman. Gilman’s character finally resolves her problems by breaking free, where Elisa remains frustrated with her ignorant husband and Edna of ultimately escapes through death. This dominance, this isolation, is a cycle maintained by society and the men within it. A cycle that these three short stories prove to be nothing more than destructive and harmful for families as a whole. Following these storylines, there are three key points to address: the relationship between husband and wife, women’s standings within society and finally, the end that it drives these originally normal women to.

At first Gilman’s character tries to rebel against her husband through writing, (something she has been forbidden from doing while on her hiatus). In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Gilman implies that although her husband is “very careful and loving” (Gilman 449) she is also her condemner. Gilman addresses the fact that John prevents her from writing, which she loves so much. She feels completely discouraged by the fact that her husband does not give any advice about her work and that “he even hates to have her write a word,” (Gilman 449) Gilman also writes, “John does not know how much she really suffers” (448) and there is no problem tying these problems to reality, because they were actually quite real. In “A Feminist Reading of Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’” by Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, Gilman herself also suffered from nervous breakdown and was treated by S. Weir Mitchell, a famous nerve specialist. Her physician kept her in a big room and “he has forbidden her to touch pen to paper until she is well again” (Gilbert and Gubar 502). This story was quite actually based on her life and it still emits the pain of isolation she once felt. Similar to Gilman’s character is Elisa Allen from “The Chrysanthemums”, who is also not satisfied with her relationship with her husband. Quite comparable to the Salinas Valley, Elisa’s lifestyle is just as barren and limited to the responsibilities of her husband and her job. While she does take pride in growing the largest chrysanthemums in Salinas, her husband does not share the same respect, as...

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