Sexist Subservience and Submission in "The Yellow Wallpaper" Essay

Sexist Subservience and Submission in "The Yellow Wallpaper"
An exploration of feminist undertones in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper."
# 154006 | 1,111 words | 3 sources | 2014 | CA
Published on Sep 11, 2014 in English (General) , Psychology (General) , Gender and Sexuality (General)

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From the Paper:

"In the short story The Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte Perkins Gilman explores women's position in society in relation to a patriarchal structure of social norms. Sexist attitudes of authority objectify women into restricted roles, creating emotional and physical restraints. The limitations created impede women's rights of equality, reflecting upon "the issue of sex roles" (Schumaker 589). Through personifying the struggle against male supremacy, portrayals of entrapment, subordination, and degradation are brought to the surface.
"The practice of authority results in oppressive relationships. "Institutionalized through assigned gender roles" (Schumaker 592), skewed balances of equality and justice become standard, favoring a male-centric society. Women are given a subordinate place in the social structure, expected to be subservient to males, in a position of authority that couldbe easily abused.The Yellow Wallpaper can be used as a reference of representation for the male-female dynamic during the turn of the 19th century. The narrator is portrayed as "a self engendered by John's demands and desires" (Haney-Peritz 120). Control is placed over the narrator by her "domineering husband" (Schumaker 591), creating unjust constrictions. Gilman "suggests that the world is full of Johns" (Schumaker 593), repeatedly characterizing men as oppressive, holding authority over the opposite sex, which they view as fragile. Suggestions of female oppression within relationships can be found in the narrator's use of verbal irony when speaking of her marriage: "John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in a marriage" (Gilman 666). In healthy relationships, dynamics such as this are not expected, however these types of relationships were, in the traditional sense, looked at as standard and the female role was not challengedbut accepted. Imagery and symbolism allow further understanding of the complexities of these accepted social norms. Vivid imagery of the "subpattern" (Gilman 670) of the wallpaper evolves to "become a woman creeping behind bars, a projection of her feelings about herself as she looks through the actual bars of the window" (Schumaker 596). The pattern grows to embody a personified representation of women, trapped in the domestic pattern of life and theniche society has provided for them. This 'pattern' is illustrated as seemingly inescapable. Along with the imprisoning attributes of the wallpaper's pattern, the wallpaper is described as having "the subtlest, most enduring odor" (Gilman 674) which "creeps all over the house" (Gilman 674). The pervasive presence of the "hovering" (Gilman 674) odor throughout the housecreates connections with the influences of the structures of a patriarchy on culture. The smell, similar to the dominating roles of men, although evident, is subtle enough to be pushed aside and forgotten as the narrator is "used to it" (Gilman 674). The odor, then, is a metaphor for the normality of an inescapable inequality and injustice situated on the minority - the oppressive relationships impairing women."

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