Theme of Isolation in Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, Steinbeck’s The Chrysanthemums and Chopin’s The Awakening

Theme of Isolation in Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, Steinbeck’s The Chrysanthemums and Chopin’s The Awakening

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Despite differing story lines, Charlotte Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, John Steinbeck’s The Chrysanthemums and Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, depict the same suffering; the isolation that women have been forced to endure throughout history. In the time period that all three characters were placed, it was culturally acceptable for wives to be dominated by their husbands; their responsibility revolving around the needs of their children and those of their spouse. Most women simply did not have a means or an idea of how to rebel against their husbands. The women in all three stories are protagonists who have poor relationships of emotional attachment with their spouses. While the main character of Gilman’s story endures multiple psychotic breaks, Elisa Allen of Steinbeck’s piece is quite the opposite: a very strong and powerful woman. Gilman’s character finally resolves her problems by breaking free, where Elisa remains frustrated with her ignorant husband and Edna of ultimately escapes through death. This dominance, this isolation, is a cycle maintained by society and the men within it. A cycle that these three short stories prove to be nothing more than destructive and harmful for families as a whole. Following these storylines, there are three key points to address: the relationship between husband and wife, women’s standings within society and finally, the end that it drives these originally normal women to.

At first Gilman’s character tries to rebel against her husband through writing, (something she has been forbidden from doing while on her hiatus). In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Gilman implies that although her husband is “very careful and loving” (Gilman 449) she is also her condemner. Gilman addresses the fact that John prev...

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...tanding of equality; but in these novella’s the reader can only see the loneliness, inner-turmoil, and feelings of inadequacy that plagued every one. The reader learns that forcing a person, particularly a woman, into such a place of exaggerated separation can have grave consequences.

Works Cited

Chopin, Kate. "The Awakening." The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women: The Traditions in English. 2nd ed. Comp. Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar. New York: Norton, 1996. 1011-101. Print.

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Literature for Composition: Reading and Writing Arguments about Essays, Fiction,
Poetry, and Drama. Ed. Sylvan Barnet, William Burto, and William E. Cain. 8th ed. New York: Pearson Longman, 2007. 765-75. Print.

Steinbeck, John. "The Chrysanthemums." The Seagull Reader Stories. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008.

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