The Gender Politics of Work Exposed in The Yellow Wallpaper

2465 Words10 Pages
The Gender Politics of Work Exposed in The Yellow Wallpaper The literature of the nineteenth century cataloged the social, economical and political changes during its period. Through it many new concerns and ideologies were proposed and made their journeys through intellectual spheres that have endured and kept their relevance in our own period today. The literature, sometimes quite overtly, introduced the issues arising with the changes in society specifically due to the industrial revolution. In this mixture of new ideas was the question of women's labor and functions among this rapidly changing society. American authors as well as Victorian authors, like George Gissing and Mabel Wotton, explored these issues somewhat explicitly during this period. In America, Louisa May Alcott and Charlotte Perkins Gilman expressed these issues in short stories with strong implications of the dangers of unfulfilled or unsatisfying labor available to women. With the emergence of an industrial working class that arrived from the farms and countryside new theories and ideologies about the political economy began to appear. Karl Marx, a political philosopher during this time, introduced the idea of "alienation of labor". His theory proposed that labor has the ability to create a loss of reality in the laborer because the laborer himself becomes a commodity or object due to the nature of work. In terms of the roles of women it can be argued that the effect is even greater due to the limited choices of work available. This theme is expressed in literature through the writings of Gilman and Alcott. In Charlotte Perkins Gilman's, The Yellow Wallpaper we are introduced to characters that can be argued to be representational of society in the 19th century. The narrator, wife to a seemingly prominent doctor, gives us a vision into the alienation and loss of reality due to her lack of labor. I also contend however that this alienation can also be attributed to her infantilization by her husband, which she willingly accepts. "John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage" (1). The narrator here realizes her place among the order of society and even notes that it is to be expected. She is aware of her understanding that things between she and her husband are not equal not only because he is a doctor but because he is a man, and her husband. The narrator is forbidden from work and confined to rest and leisure in the text because she is supposedly stricken with, "…temporary nervous depression - a slight hysterical tendency," that is diagnosed by both her husband and her brother, who is also a doctor (1).

More about The Gender Politics of Work Exposed in The Yellow Wallpaper

Open Document