The Yellow Wallpaper: Breaking Free
During the 19th century, women were severely discriminated and influenced by society’s strict patriarchal ideals. Charlotte Perkins Gilman emphasizes in her short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” men’s imprisonment of women into patterned domestic lives through the narrator’s complicated relationship with the nursery she is forced to stay at and its intricate wallpaper. Gilman discloses the necessity for women’s equal opportunity and freedom as men through the constant conflict between the narrator’s desire to express creativity and society’s patriarchal expectations of her.
The narrator’s connection to the nursery and its wallpaper corresponds to her relationship with her husband John. Although she expresses irritation and frustration with the disturbing patterns of the nursery’s wallpaper and the barred windows that together resemble a room for the insane upon her first encounter, she passively tries to suppress these feelings because John declares that the nursery room is helping her repress her “harmful” fancies. Consistently throughout the story, the narrator’s creativity conflicts with John’s rationality. While the narrator struggles to suppress her expressive nature and thus, relates to the wallpaper, John “scoffs openly at any talk of things not to be felt and seen and put down in figures” (Gilman 166). The contrasting female and male characteristics supports Simon Baren-Cohen’s theory that females are stronger empathizers and males are stronger systemizers at a population level. While the narrator desires to freely express her individuality, John believes that women should be restrained to domestic roles. Although men and women have different characteristics as Cohen states, Gilman ultimately stresses the need for society to transform social norms of degrading women and to instead strive for more women’s rights because men and women are inherently equal. Gilman further advocates for women’s liberalization from a...
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