Women and 19-Century Domesticity in "The Yellow Wallpaper"

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American Literature II 2120
25 March 2013
Women and 19-Century Domesticity in “The Yellow Wallpaper” “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a short story about a new mother attempting to overcome her diagnosis of depression by being cooped up in a room without normal human interaction as prescribed by a top-rated male psychologist. The gender role expected of the nineteeth century woman was not ideal to the main character. The story goes on to critique the treatment plan set forth by her husband and psychologist. This in turn critiques the entire belief system in the nineteeth century that women should not be working outside the home. Gilman reveals in “Why I Wrote ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’?” that the story parallels one of her own, with exaggeration (Gilman “Why I Wrote” 804). Through research and an analytical reading, I will demonstrate how Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” contradicts the gender roles that were placed on American women in the nineteenth century.
In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Gilman defies gender roles in the nineteenth century, by using the main character to show women need a creative outlet, to work, and not conform to the idealistic type of woman in the nineteenth century. She also shows this story is not specifically about one family by using generic names such as John and Mary (Ford 309). The use of these unspecific names suggests that Gilman is using the story to encompass all women and not just the main character of the story that is undergoing these persecutions (Ford 309). Throughout the story, the main character is trapped in a room with horrid yellow wallpaper. that her husband said he would change it out when they first rented the house, but now has no intention to. He believes that living with something she isn’t fond of will do her some good in recovery (Gilman “Yellow” 794). At first the yellow wallpaper has little meaning other than the fact that the main character hates it and almost refuses to



Cited: Ford, Karen. ""The Yellow Wallpaper" and Women 's Discourse." Tulsa Studies in Women 's Literature. 4.2 (1985): 309-314. Ser. 2. ETSU Libraries One Search. Web. 3 Mar. 2013. Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “Why I Wrote ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’?” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 8th Ed. 5 Vols. Nina Baym, et al. New York: Norton, 2012. 804. Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Nina Baym and Robert S. Levine. 8th ed. Vol. C. New York & London: Norton, 2012. 792-803. Halttunen, Karen, Joseph F. Kett, Neal Salisbury, Harvard Sitkoff, and Nancy Woloch. "The Cult of Domesticity." The Enduring Vision: A History of the American People. 7th Ed. Paul S. Boyer and Clifford E. Clark, Jr. Boston: Wadsworth, MA. W.W. Norton & Company. 585. Print. Since 1865. King, Jeannette, and Pam Morris. "On Not Reading Between The Lines: Models Of Reading In The Yellow Wallpaper." Studies In Short Fiction 26. (1989): 23-32. Humanities Full Text (H.W. Wilson). Web. 15 Mar. 2013. Thraikill, Jane F. “Doctoring ‘The Yellow Wallpaper.’” ELH. 69.2 (2002) 525-566. Ser. 2 ETSU Libraries One Search. Web. 15 Mar. 2013 Treichler, Paula A. “Escaping the Sentence: Diagnosis and Discourse in ‘The Yellow Wallpaper.’” Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, Feminist Issues in Literary Scholarship (1984) 61-77. Ser. 2 ETSU Libraries One Search. Web. 15 Mar. 2013

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