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How Is Your Reading Of The Yellow Wallpaper By Charlotte Perkins Gilman Informed By A Feminist Critical Approach And Understanding Of Socio Historic Context?

665 words - 3 pages

On an initial reading, the yellow wallpaper is a story chronicling a woman's slow decent into madness. However, the story from a feminist perspective is clearly a critique of the treatment, position and expectations of women in the 1800s. Through the story, Gilman expresses her own feminist belief of how women should be seen as the equals of men, while encapsulating the spirit of the rising women's rights movement happening at the time.

The yellow wallpaper is not just about a woman but a 'captive' woman becoming mad. Captive, because although she is not ill-treated (physically) as such, it is obvious that the narrator is being kept in the room with the 'horrid' yellow wallpaper against her wishes. The narrator mentions how she had begged to be moved downstairs or o at least have the offensive wallpaper removed , but was denied by her 'informed' husband who claimed that he knew best as he was a physician, ...view middle of the document...

On the other hand, she feels obliged to stay in her husband’s care: “he takes all care from me, and so I feel basely ungrateful not to value it more”. No matter how much she is repressed she believes herself to be 'ungrateful', an opinion which has surely been the result of a upbringing with a teaching of dependency upon males. This highlights just how innately Patriarchal society back then-and perhaps now still-is. Her society has conditioned its women to be submissive and dependant-something Gilman brings attention too threw the character of Jennie, Johns sister who can be seen as the authors representation of all that was expected of a woman of the time. Jennie who is described as a 'perfect and enthusiastic housekeeper' who hopes for 'no better profession' is the ideal woman of the time, one who 'understands' that domestic work is what she is meant to do, and does not challenge the expectations of the society by wishing for different or better profession.. Again, housekeeping was generally seen as the extent of a woman's duties during the time, the expectation being that they would remain within the domestic sphere, and not step out into the public sphere, which was solely for men. Here Gilman cleverly brings attention to the fact that it is not the individual-John- but society on a grander scale that is corrupt. John, despite his actions which seem restrictive, is good-meaning in his own way. It is the societal norms that dictate that women be kept oppressed as such, and so John himself can be seen as a victim of the social order as he is merely caring out his pre-conceived gender role by seizing authority over his wife's life and so leading to her madness. It is these such 'gender-specific' roles that Gilman, as a feminist herself believes are what is wrong. For her, and many other feminists, these gender roles need to be removed from the social order for both sexes to ever be equal. Gilman shows that following the 'protocol' set out by the patriarchal society can have devastating effects on the women of her time, thus challenging the necessity of them.

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