In their works, Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Kate Chopin show that freedom was not universal in America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The three works, "The Yellow Wallpaper," "At the 'Cadian Ball," and "The Storm" expose the oppression of women by society. This works also illustrate that those women who were passive in the face of this oppression risk losing not only their identity, but their sanity as well.
Gilman's female narrator, who either chose not to fight this tradition or was unable to do so, loses her sanity at the hands of an oppressive male-dominated American society. The narrator feels certain that the "rest cure" prescribed by her doctor is not working. She says that the men in her life are wrong to limit her activity. She feels that she could escape her depression if given the chance. "Personally, I disagree with their ideas. I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good."1 But despite this knowledge, the narrator does not act out against what she believes to be the incorrect ideas of the men who confine her and make her mental illness worse. Her growing insanity is inspired by and represented in the wallpaper of the story's title.
The pattern on the wallpaper represents to the narrator and to the reader the male-dominated society that is depriving the narrator of her freedom. For the narrator, on a personal level, the pattern on the wallpaper represents the actions of her husband, doctor and her husband's sister to keep her locked in the room and idle. While these people are ostensibly attempting to aid the narrator, they are in effect imprisoning her i...
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...he Yellow Wallpaper," the narrator does not act out and she loses her sanity. In "At the 'Cadian Ball," Clarisse acts out and she is successful. Calixta does not act out and she submits to a marriage to a man for whom she feels less passion. In "The Storm," Clarisse continues to be happy because she acts in a manner that suits her. She goes away when she feels like it and both she and Alcee are happy. The theme that is recurrent in these stories is that it is important for a woman's happiness and well-being to act out against an unjust society.
* 1 "The Yellow Wallpaper," Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Norton Anthology of American Literature, 1994, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, p. 646.
* 2 Ibid, p. 653.
* 3 "The Storm," Kate Chopin, The Norton Anthology of American Literature, 1994, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, p. 493.
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