Essay Paper on the Yellow Wallpaper Feminism
Throughout time women have constantly battled for equality with men. In many literature works, feminism has been a major theme. The Yellow Wallpaper, written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in 1892, has a remarkably strong feminist theme throughout the story. Composed in the time which valued male dominance and superiority, this work focuses on women gaining independence while losing a portion of her self. The issue of feminism is prevalent within the disease of the main character, the characters, and even the setting of the story.
The main character of The Yellow Wallpaper is based on Charlotte Gilman. After having a child, the character is struck with a disease of the nerves. Her husband imposes a “Rest Cure” on her that called for complete rest. The “Rest Cure” was devised by Silas Weir Mitchell in 1877. This cure was to be used for the treatment of nervous disorders that were quite common in women during the 1800’s. Women doctors were acutely rare during the nineteenth century, which led to the overwhelming number of male doctors.
These male professionals hardly knew anything about women and for that reason, women were constantly misdiagnosed and forced to do ludicrous acts to “heal” them. The “Rest Cure” was a way to subjugate and demoralize women. It consisted of actions that made women helpless and reliant on the (male) doctor (a prevalent theme throughout history). The treatment dictated that the woman needed help turning over, having her bowls passes, and assisted eating. The character in The Yellow Wallpaper is confined to a drab, dreary room where she was not even permitted to leave the bed. She is restricted from writing in her journal, walking outside or even to exclaim her disagreement with the “cure”. She believes that she should be with rest of society, yet her husband disregards her opinions and ignores her. Her husband, a physician of “high standing,” cares of her until he passed on his responsibility to another. This is just one example, of many, that portrays masculine dominance and female subordination.
John, the main character’s husband, is the perfect example of the male view towards women during the nineteenth century, and even to this day. He disregards his wife’s opinions and treats her as if she were a child. When John and his wife discuss her disease, she states, “John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that.” It only conveys that notion of the male view towards women as inferior, submissive, and mindless. John is a prominent physician who forces his wife to believe and listen to him. The main character exclaims, “He does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no reason to suffer and that satisfies him.”(Gilman, 42) He believes that she really is not ill and dismisses her illness as “silly.” John controls her creativity by not allowing her to write, controls her motherhood by not allowing her to see her child and controls her thoughts and ideas by not allowing her to speak of them. John is a typical dominate male, molding his wife to his ideal of a commodity.
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