Social Analysis of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Charlotte Perkins Gilman is an outstanding American writer with strong personal and social positions. She is well-known for her feministic viewpoints and she remains a model of a fighter against social inequality, the one who promoted the transformation of the orthodox norms of cultural lifestyles. As a matter of fact, Charlotte Perkins Gilmans short story The Yellow Wallpaper is a part of the great feminist literature works, since it is a manifestation of the struggle against the minimal significance of females roles in the society as well as the assertion that there is no difference between mens and womens minds, meaning that they should be considered equal in all aspects.
Initially, the writer focuses on stereotypes and prejudices in regard to females in society. For this reason, she vividly depicts physical and mental condition of the protagonist, illuminating it from both genders viewpoints. Thus, the readers are presented with cultural and social norms that existed during the last decades of the nineteenth century. The mens absolute control over women was the major mode of social relationships between two genders. In fact, men were in charge and could make decisions in regard to different aspects while women had a limited sphere of activity, denoted predominantly by household chores.
In terms of the situation illustrated in the short story, it was a condition familiar to Gilman, because she had experienced the syndrome of postpartum depression herself. Thus, the protagonist of The Yellow Wallpaperinherited a large number of key traits from the author of the story, who passionately struggled for womens rights. In particular, the readers see a person who from the first lines of the story exposes her private thoughts to the audience. She describes her husbands and brothers visions of the problem. Since they are physicians of high standing and furthermore, since they are both men, they state that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression a slight hysterical tendency. The moving despair is felt as the impact of these words, because even relatives and friends would laugh at the womans enthusiastic attempts to cure herself with exciting and different activities, choosing to accept the doctors viewpoints on her therapy instead. Moreover, it is disturbing that since those two are educated men successful in their careers, they believe that they know exactly what is better for the womans well-being.
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The main character often tries to mention the medical terms herself, such as phosphates or phosphate. The satire concealed in these episodes reveals the essential problem of Victorian women. They lack education, and therefore, they are predominately underestimated while their opinions are disregarded due to scarcity of proficiency. In this realm, women, including the protagonist, cannot decide what is better for them and their health, so they are forced to completely rely on mens viewpoints. Although males and females are equal in their cognitive aptitudes, it is believed that the latter should remain simple and dutiful to their family in order to correspond to the social norms of the nineteenth century.
Additionally, the main character ignores her personal intuition because it opposes her husbands words. She desires to obtain more socialization and stimulation out of her daily activities, thinking it would help in her recovery, but her husband John claims that it will only damage her health. Moreover, John states that the worst thing his wife can do to herself is to think about her own condition. Thus, it oppresses the narrator even more. As a consequence, the males dominating role is vividly depicted from the first pages of the short story, reflecting the disparity in the females position, focusing on the personal inability to decide what is better.
Furthermore, womens wishes and desires are utterly ignored, and the emotional state is considered to be a manifestation of the spiteful nature immanent in the fair sex. Namely, this virtue of womens character is presented in Gilmans The Yellow Wallpaper, and it appears disputable whether the problem is indeed in the protagonists idle, passing whims. It is the husbands vision of the situation that offers such assessment, while the narrators desires and feelings remain neglected, forcing her to attempt and control herself in front of her husband. Thus, she confesses, So I take pains to control myself before him, at least, and that makes me very tired. In fact, nothing is done in order to stimulate the main characters recovery. The tension caused by misunderstanding, on the contrary, intensifies her bad condition, while stubbornness and prejudices of John are justified by society. John refuses to take into account the narrators wishes not solely as of a woman, but also as of a human who is absolutely on par with him in regard to thoughts and wants.
Eventually, the author implements an astonishing technique in her piece of writing that reveals the females position in the society in general and the main characters condition in the story in particular. The symbolism the writer applies assists the readers in understanding the lack of significance of women in the nineteenth century. Gilman leaves the protagonist unnamed in spite of naming all minor characters of her story. This intentional technique is not the writers error on the contrary, it is her explication of the situation where the narrators desires are neglected. Despite her gender that is regarded as a flaw, the narrator would be able to treat herself more efficiently than her husband and brother do. The experienced physicians cannot notice some obvious things, like the fact that the woman does not need prescribed medicines she needs simple physical activities and socialization. Due to the diminished importance of the narrator, the author avoids mentioning her name intentionally, thus disclosing the insignificance of her existence to people and to the members of her family who reject and neglect her mind and presence.
Finally yet similarly importantly, Gilmans story received different responses from the writers contemporaries. Although the work evoked diverse reactions, the majority of readers expressed their deep appreciation of its author. The recognition of the piece of literature did not depend on the readers gender, thus Dr. Brummell Jones entirely supported Gilmans point of view and admired her delicate and accurate illustration of the protagonists physical and mental health. While practicing medicine, he noticed that there has been no detailed, exact picture of incipient insanity before. In this, the doctor acknowledged Gilmans success rather than her protagonists dismal condition. However, the recognition that the narrators recovery was impossible on the account of her husbands incorrect therapy facilitated the strengthening of the writers feminist position.
Anon was another supporter of Gilman. In his article in Times, he presented his review of Gilmans The Yellow Wallpaper, blaming the social order that catered to gender inequality. In addition, he realized that the majority of personal and family problems were in fact caused by mens dominating position. For this reason, Anon did not sympathize with the main character. On the contrary, he accused her of stupid devotion of a husband. As a consequence, some men also started to find it necessary to equalize both genders rights.
In conclusion, Charlotte Perkins Gilmans The Yellow Wallpaperplayed a significant role not only as a literary masterpiece, but also as a manifestation of the problem of inequality between men and women. The author proclaimed that there were no differences between genders except for the flaws and prejudices of the social order. Males could not always make the right decisions for women and other members of their family, while females were also capable of accurately assessing the situation and solving problems.