The Yellow Wallpaper And As I Lay Dying

The Yellow Wallpaper And As I Lay Dying

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At the turn of the twentieth century, Charlotte Perkins Gillman and William Faulkner authored The Yellow Wallpaper and As I Lay Dying, respectively. Gillman’s book published in 1892 speaks to mental illness and the malpractice of doctors due to inadequate knowledge, as well as, treatments for mental health. As I Lay Dying, published in 1930, is Faulkner’s whimsical tale of a misfortunate family’s journey to bury their mother in her hometown. Both authors create a developed female character which presents a culturally more harsh standard of living for women of that time. Readers can infer that Gillman’s protagonist and Dewey Dell, one of Faulkner’s minor characters, lived under similar cultural standards; however, readers can also see that these characters handled their adversities distinctly. This paper will correlate the cultural expectations of Gillman’s protagonist and Dewey Dell followed by the characters incongruities as these women encounter expectations and tribulations.
First off, women living at this time would be considered marginalized, yet women held many expectations often placed by the men. How are women estranged? Take Gilman’s protagonist for an example, early in the text Gilman writes, “There comes John, and I must put this away—he hates to have me write a word” (Baym and Levine 487). The Protagonist’s reality is bleak, according to her, writing is forbade by John, her husband. One can then conclude that the protagonist in Gillman’s story is a formally uneducated woman, but if she is unschooled what is her job or purpose in life? Later in the text the protagonist passionately claims, “It does weigh on me so not to do my duty in any way! I meant to be such a help to John, such a real rest and comfort, and here I ...


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...hom she calls out before falling into his deception, "You aint the doctor” (Faulkner 84).
It is apparent that Gilman’s and Faulkner’s character face insurmountable odd, yet in the face of adversity, these women handle themselves differently. A deeper look into the authors provides a clarity into why their heroines acted differently. As a feminist, it only makes sense that Gilman’s protagonist embodied her belief of a strong and independent woman. Meanwhile, as part of the authoritative patriarchy, Faulkner’s heroine could be nothing less than an objectified character in need of a man in her life helping sort her issues, as Faulkner writes, “He could do so much for me if he just would. He could do everything for me” (19). Therefore a woman’s role in society is, although culturally set, is ambiguous and meant to be defined by the individual and his or her own beliefs.

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