Gender roles seem to be as old as time and have undergone constant, but sometime subtle, revisions throughout generations. Gender roles can be defined as the expectations for the behaviors, duties and attitudes of male and female members of a society, by that society. The story, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” is a great example of this. There are clear divisions between genders. The story takes place in the late nineteenth century where a rigid distinction between the domestic role of women and the active working role of men exists (“Sparknotes”). The protagonist and female antagonists of the story exemplify the women of their time; trapped in a submissive, controlled, and isolated domestic sphere, where they are treated as fragile and unstable children while the men dominate the public working sphere.
In the story, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the role of a woman in society is one of domestic duties. Jeenie, the protagonist’s sister-in-law, is a great example of this. The protagonist is forbidden, by her husband, to “work” until she is well again, so Jeenie steps in and assumes her domestic identity of a woman and wife. The protagonist calls her “a perfect and enthusiastic housekeeper” and says she “hopes for no better profession” (Gilman 343). Jeenie clearly has no aspirations outside the confines of her domestic role. The protagonist herself worries she is letting her husband, John, down by not fulfilling her domestic duties. She says “it does weigh on me so not to do my duty in any way” (Gilman 342). Besides the domestic role, which she is unable to fulfill, the protagonist plays the helpless, fragile, role of a woman where she is deemed incapable of thinking for herself and is reduced to acting more or les...
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...status of men. The short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, exemplifies such roles and constraints. The protagonist of the story, who is isolated, patronized, and dominated, is forced to the inner confines of her mind where her imagination runs free, slowly sending her into insanity.
Gilman, Charlotte P. "The Yellow Wallpaper." The story and its writer: An introduction to short fiction. Ed. Ann Charters. Compact 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2011. 340-351.
"Historical Collections :: Reflections on Health in Society & Culture." Claude Moore Health Sciences Library | www.hsl.virginia.edu. 13 Feb. 2012
"SparkNotes: The Yellow Wallpaper." SparkNotes: Today's Most Popular Study Guides. 13 Feb. 2012
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