24 April 2012
Gender Role Effects in “The Yellow Wallpaper”
Charlotte Perkins Gilman was a feminist writer who wrote “The Yellow Wallpaper” in the 1890’s. During this time period the woman were expected to keep the house clean, care for their children, and listen to their husbands. The men were expected to work a job and be the head of a household. The story narrates a woman’s severe depression which she thinks is linked to the yellow wallpaper. Charlotte Gilman experienced depression in her life and it inspired her to write “The Yellow Wallpaper.” The short story is based on a woman, not given a name in the text, who is very dependent on her husband. The narrator plays a gender role that is degraded by her successful husband, who is a doctor, because she is a female. John ignores his wife’s accusations with the wallpaper and looks down on the fact that she cannot fulfill her duty as a woman, mother, or wife by treating and calling her childish names.
Throughout the whole story the narrator is trying to tell her husband that she gets a weird vibe from the house and that the yellow wallpaper is driving her insane in the bedroom she stays in. The narrator states, “That spoils my ghostliness, I am afraid, but I don’t care- there is something strange about the house- I can feel it” (677). John ignores this and it angers her. Critic Davison writes, “With regard to her case, the narrator confides, “John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no reason to suffer, and that satisfies him” (56). John tells her that she has a temporary nervous depression and a slight hysterical tendency. He says that she just needs rest, and she will be fine. She feels she cannot do anything about it because he is not only a doctor but her husband, so she just goes on with the days living in the mansion. As a female she is supposed to respect the man of the house and have little say so. Gilman writes, “My brother...
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