Charlotte Perkins Gilman introduces Mollie as the average, stereotypical “woman” in society. Gilman describes Mollie as:
“a beautiful instance of what is reverentially called ‘a true woman.’ Whimsical, capricious, charming, changeable, devoted to pretty clothes and always ‘wearing them well,’ as the esoteric phrase has it. She was also a loving wife and a devoted mother possessed of ‘the social gift’ and the love of ‘society’ that goes with it, and, with all these was fond and proud of her home and managed it was capably as – well, as most women do (57).”
Gilman’s portrayal of Mollie depicts the stress on women and the roles they are confined to. As Mollie embodies the image of a “true woman,” it is clear that emphasis on social roles and expectations ties into the everyday domestic sphere. Comparatively, Gilman also zooms in on the male role. Gilman puts Mollie into her husband’s shoes to have...
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...is essentially highlights the fact that men during this time stressed being able to work and provide because it serves as their purpose. This too expresses how men in society needed to keep women below them or “in their place.” Thus, Charlotte Perkins Gilman effectively breaks down the rules of society through these gender roles and expectations, while indicating the consequence of being looked down on for going against social norms.
In essence, Charlotte Perkins Gilman uses “If I Were a Man” to focus on the central idea of gender. Gender appears as a social construct that comes with fixed roles, as seen more prominently through Gilman’s character Mollie’s thoughts and experiences as a woman. Mainly through Mollie, Gilman ultimately identifies the challenges of not accepting assigned gender roles, as well as the gendered power structure that society is built upon.
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