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The Suppressive Roles Of Women As Illustrated In The Yellow Wallpaper

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The Submissive Roles of Women as illustrated through "The Yellow Wallpaper"

Reflecting their role in society, women in literature are often portrayed in a position that is dominated by men. Especially in the nineteenth century, women were repressed and controlled by their husbands as well as other male influences. In "The Yellow Wall-Paper," by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the protagonist is oppressed and represents the effect of the oppression of women in society: the dominant submissive relationship between an oppressive husband and his submissive wife pushes her from depression into insanity.

First of all, flawed human nature seems to play a great role in her breakdown. Her husband, a noted physician, is unwilling to admit that there might really be something wrong with his wife. This same attitude is seen in her brother, who is also a physician. While this attitude, and the actions taken because of it, certainly contributed to her breakdown; it seems to me that there is a rebellious spirit in her. Perhaps unconsciously she seems determined to prove them wrong. As the story begins, the woman -- whose name we never learn -- tells of her depression and how it is dismissed by her husband and brother. "You see, he does not believe I am sick! And what can one do? If a physician of high standing, and one's own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression -- a slight hysterical tendency -- what is one to do?" These two men -- both doctors -- seem completely unable to admit that there might be more to her condition than just stress and a slight nervous condition. Even when weeks of bed-rest don't help, her husband refuses to accept that she may have a real problem.

Throughout the story there are examples of the dominant submissive relationship. She is virtually imprisoned in her bedroom, supposedly to allow her to rest and recover her health. She is forbidden to work, "So I . . . am absolutely forbidden to "work" until I am well again." She is not even supposed to write: "There comes John, and I must put this away -- he hates to have me write a word." She has no say in the location or decor of the room she is virtually imprisoned in: "I don't like our room a bit. I wanted . . . But John would not hear of it." She can not have visitors: "It is so discouraging not to have any advice and companionship about my work, but he says he would as soon put fireworks in my pillow-case as to let me have those stimulating people about now."

Probably in large part because of her oppression, she continues to decline. "I don't feel as if it was worthwhile to turn my hand over for anything. It seems that her husband is oblivious to her declining condition, since he never admits she has a real problem until the end of the story -- at which time he fainted. John could have obtained council from someone less personally involved in her case, but the only help he seeks was for the house and baby. He obtains a nanny to watch over the children while he was away at work each day: "It is fortunate Mary is so good with the baby." And he had his sister Jennie takes care of the house. "She is a perfect and enthusiastic housekeeper." He does talk of taking her to an



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