Women’s Voice in Literature
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, women’s roles evolved from mere housewives to passionate activists who were fighting for rights to their share of the American dream. The main goal of the women participating in the fight was the right vote. In an effort to rally more to their cause, women used not only organized protests but employed literature to speak out. Written during this time period, “The Yellow Wallpaper” and “Trifles” are works that portray women as passive timid beings that should listen to their counterparts. These two pieces were composed to expose the outrageous manner in which women were regarded. On the other hand, “Canceled” is a contemporary piece which depicts the female character as a strong independent individual with her own ideas. Today, women have fought and prevailed to secure rights that rival those of men. Although women have not achieved fully equal rights as men, “Canceled” illustrates the modern social acceptance of a woman dominated relationship. All three pieces are portrayals of women’s identities and social expectations of the time period in which they were written and each reveals how women today have progressed to establish a more equal role between men and women over the last century.
In all three pieces, regardless of the time period, the female characters are presented as being trapped in their relationship. The narrator in “The Yellow Wallpaper” is forced to comply with her husband’s wishes to how she should confront her ailment. As her husband and a physician of high standing, John uses his status to manipulate the narrator into acquiescing to his demands. The narrator is “absolutely forbidden to ‘work’,” (Gilman 317) as John alleges is the remedy for her sickness. She is even banished into a room with barred windows and told to rest. The female character in “Trifles,” Mrs. Wright, is forced to endure a cold relationship with her husband with no warmth of love. As Mrs. Hale puts it “it never seemed a very cheerful place” (Glaspell 773), in reference to the house in which the relationship resided. Another indication of the lack of passion in the marriage is the jars of fruit in the kitchen that have been destroyed by the cold weather. Mrs. Wright put so much time and effort into these fruits, as suggested by her worry for them, and the cold had ruined them just as the coldness of her relationship had ruined her. In “Canceled,” the female character, Adie, is limited by an unintended pregnancy which her boyfriend requests she keep. With the pressures of raising a child, she would be unable to achieve goals that she may have had in life such as receiving a higher education and achieving a career of her own. As depicted by these three stories, women throughout time have been trapped under a man’s authority.
Although all three characters are trapped by different combination of circumstances, the older pieces compared with more contemporary piece display different options that were available to each woman, therefore illustrating the evolution of women’s rights over the past century. In both “The Yellow Wallpaper” and in “Trifles,” the female characters were not given alternatives other than to abide by regulations enacted by the men. The narrator from “The Yellow Wallpaper” yielded to her husband’s orders to a passive lifestyle. She is depicted as having no choice but to concede to the male figure as did many women of the story’s time period. In the end, the narrator is pushed into a corner causing her mind to succumb to insanity as she had no options to deal with her ailments. Mrs. Wright from “Trifles,” experienced the same results. She fell into a manic state after enduring a passionless marriage with an emotionally abusive husband. In the time period in which “Trifles” was written, a woman did not have many options to escape an abusive marriage. As depicted by Mrs. Wright, one of the few ways to be free from a lifeless...
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