Importance of Gender Roles in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper

Importance of Gender Roles in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper

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Charlotte Perkins Gilman in “The Yellow Wallpaper” explores gender roles that hint at the complications of this short story. “John laughs at me, of course” shows the insight into a largely known problem in human societies and relationships. The fictional short story shows the chilling nonfictional concerns of gender subordination in present times. One is shown in a series of events the challenges of a woman, the narrator, living in a male dominated society. Society is composed of the powerful and the weak, an asset to a gender dominated society one lives in.
John and the narrator’s brother are both high standing physicians in their current residency that requires them to make a lot of informed decisions, regarding medicine. In this story line, the occupation of John and her brother causes them to misuse their medical authority on John’s wife. This woman has post partum depression and tells her husband she does not feel good. John abuses his powers by not trusting her and diagnosis her with “temporary nervous depression – a slight hysterical tendency.” She does not question her husband’s decision making since her opinion seems weaker than his. The female gender suffers a loss of confidence when realizing the dominant level of the respectable male gender in one’s life. The narrator tries to confront John but “it is so hard to talk to John about my case, because he is so wise.” This quotation shows how scared she is of her own husband and she does not want to upset him. The powerful dominant gender role her husband plays over his ill wife causes her to suffer complete loss of confidence, where she dares not speak to him for the rest of the night. The confrontation displayed between John lessons the narrators self worth and ma...


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...ship is doomed. As time passes, John’s wife’s insanity spirals downwards into self-reflecting hallucinations of her own true being and desire of freedom. Her passion to tear down the wallpaper is metaphorically representing herself to break free of this male dominated relationship and shed free of the social standard regarding the disrespect and lack of equality within her marriage. As she expresses herself by ripping the paper from the wall, she is free and no longer under control.


Works Cited

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” In An Introduction to Literature, by Sylvan Barnet, William Burto and William E. Cain, 419-430. New York: Pearson Longman, 2006.

Lanser, Susan S. "Feminist Criticism and The Politics of Color in America." Feminist Studies, 2011: 415-441.

Oakley, Ann. "Beyond The Yellow Wallpaper." Reproductive Health Matters, 2011: 30-39.

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