The oppressed majority: A look At Gender Inequality In The Yellow Wallpaper

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Charlotte Perkins Gilman brings to light the inequalities of patriarchal society and marital inequality in the 19th century via her short story “The Yellow Wallpaper.” First published in 1892, “The Yellow Wallpaper” was written and takes place in a time when marriage was acceptably unequal and gender roles were clearly defined. Now it is regarded as a literary masterpiece in feminist ideology. The story was written as a series of journal entries from the perspective of the narrator, a young woman who has been diagnosed with a temporary nervous depression by her husband, John, who is a physician. The couple moves into a rented house for the summer and her husband orders her to strict bed rest. Isolated in a room that is covered in “hideous” yellow wallpaper and with bars on the windows, she becomes increasingly obsessed with the paper and slips further down the rabbit hole of psychosis (Gillman 13). On the surface, the story may seem that it is simply about a woman suffering from mental illness and a loving husband trying his best to take care of her. Digging deeper, it becomes clear that her husband is controlling every aspect of her life including her freedom, creativity, and sanity; disregarding her as a subordinate - far less than equal. Conflict theory in sociology suggests that the relationship between females and males has traditionally been one of unequal power, with men in a dominant position over women (Schaefer 278). By page one of the short story there are examples of this inequality and subordination. Speaking of her illness, the narrator states, “You see he does not believe I am sick! And what can one do? If a physician of high standing, and one's own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is ... ... middle of paper ... ... she got there (Gilman 10). In 1892, the “rest cure” was a common practice to treat women with a nervous illness (Stiles). By diagnosing his wife with a nervous depression, the physician-husband would most likely believed that bed rest was the only reasonable treatment. However, as the story progresses we see the narrator plunge deeper into madness and she becomes ever more obsessed with the yellow wallpaper. He does display some loving characteristics. Conclusion Works Cited Gilman, Charlotte Perkins (2012-05-12). “The Yellow Wallpaper.“ Kindle Edition. Schaefer, Richard T. Sociology. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2010. Print. Stiles, Anne. “The Rest Cure, 1873-1925.” BRANCH: Britain, Representation and Nineteenth-Century History. Ed. Dino Franco Felluga. Extension of Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net. Web. Accessed February 14th 2014.

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