Patriarchal Elements in “The Yellow Wallpaper”
Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s, “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a story that delves deeply into the psyche of a woman suffering from what we have come to know as post-partum depression. This story is very closely based on Charlotte Gilman’s own life, and she is able to infuse realism into the story in a way that draws the reader into the mind, experience, and emotions of the narrator . The protagonist in this story is never named. Her husband’s name is John. The fact that he is named and she is not is one the first indicators of the patriarchal theme of this story. Karen Ford’s examination of Paula Triechler’s essay on “The Yellow Wallpaper” focuses on the fact that “the narrator dwells in the middle of Patriarchy”. Her newborn baby is a boy, she is surrounded by her husband, her brother, and women who are “cardboard figures cut out by the patriarchy”. Mary, who is apparently the nanny, is only recognized for the traditionally feminine role of being good at taking care of the baby; and Jennie, John’s sister, strives for no more than to be a perfect housekeeper (309). The obvious superiority that John exercises over his wife in ordering her care disregards her feelings totally. When she tried to talk to him about her feelings, he treated her like a little child, trying to distract her by saying things like, “let us go downstairs. There are such pretty rooms down there.” He also calls her a pet name, “blessed little goose” and hugs her, as if to blow off her concerns (3). The only thing that she really wants to do is write, which he will not allow her to do. She has to write in secret. He also wants her to nap after every meal and rather than argue with him that she is not sleepy, she pretends to
Davenport 2 sleep. He is never mean or cruel in the story, but because of the way she seems to fear him, it could be that he has been possibly abusive at times. Or perhaps it is just the way society was...
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