Dr. Dibakar Barua
13 March 2014
Women of the Past: A Feminist Critique
Patriarchal ideals and gender roles keep women from being completely free. Throughout history, women have been labeled and stereotyped as being less capable than men. This caused them to continuously doubt their own capabilities compared to men’s. Society has not presented them with the same opportunities, nor treated them as fairly. In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”, she portrays patriarchal ideals through the mentally ill, female protagonist’s thoughts and writing, John’s attitude towards his wife’s requests, and the prison-like estate she is confined to.
The narrator in “The Yellow Wallpaper” is diagnosed with temporary nervous depression by her husband John, who is a doctor. He says that all she needs to do to get better is rest. The narrator doesn’t agree with him: “Personally, I disagree with their ideas. Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good. But what is one to do?” (1). Since she lives in a time when patriarchal ideals were present, she had no choice, but to put her trust in her husband because he “knew best”. He is a doctor after all, and she was in no position to question him even though she knew exactly what would make her feel better, which was to write and live a more exciting life. Most women of patriarchal times accepted the idea that they will never be better than they are, and are okay with it. When her husband’s sister arrives, the narrator tells us, “She is a perfect and enthusiastic housekeeper, and hopes for no better profession. I verily believe she thinks it is the writing which made me sick!” (4). The narrator is a different woman than most. The husband’s sister has the same ideals as John. She sees herself below men and believes in gender roles. Gilman shows that it is rare for a woman of that time to have a sense of feminist critique, more commonly accepting that...
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