Charlotte Perkin Gilmans short story The Yellow Wallpaper centers upon the topic of the oppression of women in the 1800s. Gilman uses the protagonist in the story to represent the oppression of women in the Victorian Era and show her readers how oppression would often times lead to the loss of self-expression and insanity.
To start with, the narrator suffers from oppression of marriage. In the 1800s males were the ones who performed any kind of work while women were confined to their homes. This ultimately made a womens identity and purpose rely on being a wife and mother. It was also common for husbands to keep their female counterparts in a state of innocence and ignorance (something we had previously seen in the play A Dolls House), preventing them from developing to their full potential. John, the narrator’s husband and a doctor, believes his wife is ill so he sends her to live in solitude and prevents her from doing any activity.
The narrator, however, believes that being able to be productive is what will help her, as stated in her diary: personally, I disagree with their ideas. Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and chance, would do me good. Her husband also keeps her medicated and makes her feel guilty for not desiring treatment. I have a schedule prescription for each hour in the day; he takes all care from me, and so I feel basely ungrateful not to value it more. The narrator is dominated by her husband with his forced treatment because he sees his knowledge as superior to hers.
The narrator also suffers from oppression from the medical world. The narrators husband has brought her to a secluded summer home because she has been, most likely, prescribed the rest cure. The rest cure was when women were advised to spend a long period of time alone without any interruption. The narrator goes on to write that she was told, by her husband, she needed, perfect rest and all the air [she] can get.
Jane then tells the reader that the nervousness that she has depresses and troubles her because she feels guilty for not being able to uphold her womanly duties. (ADD DETAIL ABOUT REST CURE). The narrator then tries to exercise her mind by writing in a small diary that she keeps hidden from her husband due to the fear of him catching her. The reader gets a hint of her fear when she writes: There comes John, and I must put this away he hates to have me write a word.
Lastly, the narrator suffers from oppression through the class system of the Victorian Era. This is because of the expectations society held for upper class women. At the time upper class women were typically allowed to do tasks like sewing and entertaining house guests. The narrator makes a comment about these tasks by saying, nobody would believe what an effort it is to do what little I am able, to dress and entertain, and order things.
The wealthy women had housekeepers who did all the needed housework and nannies that cared for their children.They ultimately had to endure the pain of having little responsibilities women had. The narrator already had little, to no tasks to do at home, but being sent to live in seclusion also stripped her from those tasks. Without knowing it the narrators husband had stripped her of the only meaning in her life. With no wifely or motherly duties and being unable to perform the small tasks she was allowed, she was stripped from her identity.
Oppression was a large theme in Charlotte Perkin Gilmans short story The Yellow Wallpaper. The many forms of oppression ultimately becomes the narrators demise as it causes her sever her connection to the outside world and strips her from her ability to express herself, causing her to fall victim to insanity.
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