Gender Roles in The Yellow Wallpaper and A Streetcar Named Desire

Gender Roles in The Yellow Wallpaper and A Streetcar Named Desire

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Many different depictions of gender roles exist in all times throughout the history of American culture and society. Some are well received and some are not. When pitted against each other for all intents and purposes of opposition, the portrayal of the aspects and common traits of masculinity and femininity are separated in a normal manner. However, when one gender expects the other to do its part and they are not satisfied with the results and demand more, things can shift from normal to extreme fairly quickly. This demand is more commonly attributed by the men within literary works. Examples of this can be seen in Tennessee Williams' “A Streetcar Named Desire”, where Stella is constantly being pushed around and being abused by her drunken husband Stanley, and also in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's “The Yellow Wallpaper”, where the female narrator is claimed unfit by her husband as she suffers from a sort of depression, and is generally looked down on for other reasons.
In “The Yellow Wallpaper”, Gilman has carefully crafted her sentences and metaphors to instill a picture of lurid and creepy male oppression. The surface of the text contains clues about Gilman’s perceptions of the treatment and roles of women, the narrator stumbling over words like “phosphates”, her being uncertain whether the correct term was “phosphates or phosphites” (Gilman 1684), which clearly shows that in her time women had been overlooked in education and because for a time, only men had that privilege, they were able to learn what they had to in order to earn jobs, which is illustrated in her husband and her brother both being “a physician of high standing” (Gilman 1684). The character Gilman has set up has the qualities and traits of the Victorian woman...


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While “The Yellow Wallpaper” mainly touches on the treatment of women in Gilman's time and only majorly addresses how negative the reception was for them while the men of her world were well-respected individuals, “A Streetcar Named Desire” makes a commentary on the gender roles of masculinity and femininity as a whole, including the two different portrayals of masculinity and how femininity was still generally looked down upon by American society in the late 1940s, unfortunately noting that not much had changed in the time between the stories passed.


Works Cited

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. "The Yellow Wallpaper." The Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2007. 1684-1695.

Williams, Tennessee. "A Streetcar Named Desire." The Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2007. 2337-2398.

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