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A Woman’s Place: The Catastrophe of Sexism Taken to the Extreme

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Are women equal to men? Are they essentially the same or wholly different beings? How are women to be treated and what is their position? In 1892 when this story was written, a woman’s place was at home and she was to be submissive to her husband. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the author, was a feminist who disagreed with this principle. Her discontentment with a woman’s role in society, their medical treatment in regards to mental disorders, and the institution of marriage are evident in her writing. The Yellow Wallpaper is a powerful example of how sexism taken to the extreme can be catastrophic.

In the late nineteenth century, women were to be wives and mothers. Women and men were seen as fundamentally different creatures, created with different purposes. The husband was the provider and the head of the family, while the wife was the homemaker. Males were the more social gender because they were deemed strong enough to deal with a complicated and crooked world. Women were seen as fragile and simplistic, and therefore their most fitting role was at home. They were to be passive, kind, respectful, and virtuous. The society in which Gilman lived had a very narrowly defined idea of what a woman was supposed to be.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman defied this stereotype. Although she was married twice, in neither relationship did she follow the standard role of homemaker. Born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1860, she was raised by a single mother and grew up to be an artist and art teacher. She married in 1884 and had a daughter the following year. However, after her pregnancy she sank into a deep postpartum depression and was sent to a sanitarium for women. There, the prescribed treatment of rest and isolation nearly drove her insane and ...

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...ciety, marriage, and self-image from the midst of it looking out. Because of the realness of Gilman’s narrative and the pain from which she draws it out, The Yellow Wallpaper shows the devastation of sexism in a moving and potent way.

Bibliography

“Charlotte Perkins Gilman." In An Introduction to Literature, 14th ed. Sylvan Barnet, William Burto, and William E. Cain, 419. New York: Person Longman, 2006.

Fortin, Elaine. "Early Nineteenth Century Attitudes Toward Women and Their Roles as Represented by Literature Popular in Worcester, Massachusetts." Teach US History. http://www.teachushistory.org/detocqueville-visit-united-states/articles/early-19th-century-attitudes-toward-women-their-roles.

Gilman, Charlotte P. "The Yellow Wallpaper." In An Introduction to Literature, Sylvan Barnet, William Burto, and William E. Cain, 420. New York: Person Longman, 2006.
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