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The Oppression Of Women Exposed In The Yellow Wallpaper, By Charlotte Perkins Gilman

1287 words - 5 pages

Prior to the early twentieth century men dictated women’s role in society. Charlotte Gilman uses her novella “The Yellow Wallpaper” (1892) as a symbolic reflection of oppression of women in a paternalistic society. Her novella challenges the idea of women being depicted as weak and fragile.
The narrator’s name is unknown through out the story, yet at the beginning the reader is given her husbands’ name (John), and the narrator’s identity through the novella is as John’s wife, who is dominated by John in their relationship. This effect created by Gillman masterfully establishes the lack of a female determined identity. He diagnoses her, and with the exception of her being tired and wanting to write, John continues to establish that her health is unwell. John is the dominant personality in the marriage he does not see her as an equal in their relationship. This is a wonderful tone and mood used to reflect the cultural norm at the time of Gillman's writing. She is not viewed as an equal, she is treated like and often referred to as being a child. When she decides that she likes a downstairs bedroom next to the nursery, John insists on her having the bedroom upstairs with the yellow wallpaper. The narrator/wife hates the color of the room and describes the color as “repellent, almost revolting” (432) When she asks for her husband to change the color, he decides to not give in to her wants, and the reader is informed that John, who knows best, does this for her benefit. It is reflective of a parent not wanting to give into their child's whims for fear the child will become spoiled and will expect to get everything they ask for. Though her husband belittles her, she still praises everything he does and sees everything he is doing for her as motivated by love. “He said I was his darling” (436) is one indication that John sees his wife as a child and addressing her in the manner of a child. As a doctor John is an intelligent man and that intelligence comes a wide range of vocabulary, often loaded and revealing in the words selected. John could have used a word that would not establish her essence as that of a child. He might have employed words such as my love, my sweetheart. Those modifiers have a stronger emotional tie to the person spoken of. The word does not faze the narrator and she continues to praise her husband for everything he does. However, her feelings begin to change as the story progresses and the limitations set by her husband and society begin to expand as she is no longer free to do anything. This escalation on the part of Gillman portrays the mood of the wife/narrator as prisoner so effectively.
The narrator feels imprisoned in her home, imprisoned by her husband and her sister-in-law, Jennie. John returns to work and, instead of leaving his narrator/wife home alone, his sister moves in to care for her. But Jennie mostly monitors and reports, making sure our narrator does not do anything that John would not approve of. This...

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