Compare and Contrast Essay: "The Yellow Wallpaper" and "The Awakening"

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This paper is based on the awakening of patriarchal oppression. mechanism and feminism in The Awakening and The Yellow Wallpaper. Through the comparative analysis of the female struggle and awakening in a patriarchal society. Although both books are about men. However, there is still a difference between the confinement of women in the power society and the awakening of women's consciousness. Where the two ladies were the circumstances and dilemmas are different. The heroine in The Awakening can do what she likes to a certain extent. But in The Yellow Wallpaper, the heroine doesn't even mention it by name. At the end of the novel, in The Awakening, the heroine goes to the sea and ends her life, while in The Yellow Wallpaper, the name is unknown. The heroine of the film became mad. In male-dominated societies, women flee even as they awaken but a sad ending. Nevertheless, these two novels still played a great role in the development of feminism.

First of all, I would like to talk about the Patriarchy which is an important element throughout both novels. Patriarchy is defined by feminists. It has a complete cause and working mechanism. In this definition, it refers to the notification of men to women. Anthropologists first defined a 'patriarchal society' as one in which the patriarchy holds all young men and lesser men, men and women, under its power. Many feminists agree with this definition, which is perhaps the broadest sense of patriarchy. He describes the patriarchal system as a social system that limits women.

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In Kate's view, paternity means having everything, even murder or sale to his wife and children. There is no doubt that a man has authority over his family. In the same way, men are in control of the whole society. Edna's father, a bigoted, paranoid Confederate colonel, was more of a typical patriarchy. He used his authority and authoritarian regime to control his wife and children and even forced his wife to her grave. He doesn't even regret his writing. As for Edna's private life, he vehemently opposes her marriage to Leon and makes every effort to force her to marry. In a divided society dominated by men, labor is also a form of discrimination based on gender. Women are men's property in the field; Men are more exposed to women's bodies.

Under the male-dominated social system, politics is not only used to manage and conquer women but also to control people's thoughts through the promulgation of patriarchal ideology. 'After realizing the potential power of women, and the real power of man, patriarchal ideology stifles the consciousness of attempting to destroy women and strangle the real society for them.' In the novel, the main female characters are not allowed to function as mothers in the biological body, accompanied by popularity, dependence, and other characteristics. Women are so dominated by an ideology that they are willing to obey these conventions even if they give up their individuality. 'Instead of discovering the essence of the patriarchal ideology, women are quite satisfied with their repressed roles.'(Kate)

In the 19th century, the worship of the 'real' ideology gradually changed women's prejudice and true femininity. Women are more concerned with the people around them and how they are evaluated and thought about in their society. This may be divided into four categories: chastity, obedience, purity, and piety. This ideology is designed to legitimately create a target value that victimizes women. The main doctrine of cults and family life is that of true woman worship. Painful worship and family life keep women at home or in other private places. In fact, whether they have family needs or social needs, they have to act like servants. The Awakening and The Yellow Wallpaper are two classic novels that depict waking women yearning for independence and freedom.

Patriarchal preservatives that take full advantage of religious scripts and put women in a lower position seemed to get along well from the start. God's first woman was Adam's rib, holding women and children under his sovereignty. Genesis may be cited as evidence that 'a woman wants a husband who should control,'(Bible) that is, the god, the 'wife who was destined to rule over Adam.' (Bible)As Gimmer once pointed out, 'Religion by virtue of its authoritative piety will cause half of mankind to abandon their human interests and activities.'(Klein) There is no doubt that this is a symbolic hierarchical system and that feminism is trying to undermine the patriarchal norms.

Man's power cannot be preserved unless laws and regulations are established to make it reasonable that man is superior to woman. The rules and regulations of men are for their benefit, for the maintenance of the so-called fact that the master is man.

In The Awakening and The Yellow Wallpaper, Edna and the unnamed narrator are both in a restricted social environment. They can no more do what they want than they can love what they love. All their love belongs to their husbands and children.

In The Awakening, on Grande's island, women are mostly middle-class and are expected to stay home as showcases of their husbands' wealth. Women depend on their husbands; What they have to do is obey their husbands' wishes. Internalized worship and family life made them traditional, “raising children, loving and obeying their husbands and making themselves completely part of the family, using the eyes of their husbands as the standard in a male-dominated society.” (Klein)

In The Awakening, her husband, Leon, is concerned about his money and social status. As long as he does what he likes, and has complete domination and freedom, he will get great pleasure, and he will stay where and when. For most of the day, he seemed to enjoy Clay's club, ignoring his wife and children. It was late at night when he got home from the club, and he was still in high spirits, hoping that his wife as sober and concerned would accompany him to chat and joke. Once, before she could wake up, he was furious and scolded her for her lack of responsibility and negligence as a mother. He accuses Edna of not caring about the child Ye's impatience: “What else can you do as a woman if you don't take care of your children as a mother?” (Kate)Edna had no choice but to endure these painful experiences without complaint. She believed that these little things would not matter so long as she persisted in her infinite kindness and devotion to her husband. A chauvinist spokesman said it was not uncommon for him to take on such a role under a male-dominated system, leaving his child at home with a serious illness and ordering his wife to take care of the child. According to his own sufficient attention as a father and husband, he is responsible for making noise to show that whether he pays attention to his wife's health interests or not, he never worries about others' needs and how she feels. Edna's illness, he claimed, was a trivial matter. He didn't take good care of her.

The Yellow Wallpaper is similar to it, in the 19th century American social values were deeply admired by Victorian women. A woman must be temperate and stay in the family zone. They believe that women are born inferior to men. In The Yellow Wallpaper, the female narrator is imprisoned in a villa and subjected to generations of 'rest therapy' because her husband, John, considers her to be 'temporary, -- a slight tendency toward hysterical tension of “depression.”(Gilman) She was forced to have a good rest and banned from doing any mental activities, especially thinking and writing. Without family and friends, her room was like a kindergarten, not only without company but not allowed to read and write, as if everything was under protection. The narrator seems to be a helpless baby in this environment but does not take care of the adults around her. She was left in that room mentally and physically by her husband.

John, the heroine's husband, rents to enjoy the summer. The narrator, who doesn't even have a name, portrays Langer's house as 'the most beautiful place, with a delicious garden, but it was all alone, standing alone on the road, three miles from downtown. The walls and gates, the locks, the little houses that stand alone.”(Gilman)

Descriptions of other objects, such as walls, are vague but reflect different devices. The narrator walks into the big house for the first time, something may be wrong, and the narrator proudly announces something strange in the room. She wasn't sure if it really existed. Besides, she had no idea that the rent might be at such a bargaining price and why the house was still vacant for a long time.

Besides, John called his wife 'little girl,' and he hated the way she walked. In the evening he concluded that she had come to recover. Although she confided to her husband how she felt, he said it was her deliberate imagination that caused her illness. She tried to find out, but he replied that because he and the baby needed her, she had to get well soon.' Dear, I beg you, for your own sake, and for our children's sake, and for your own, that you may never let that thought enter your mind! Men believed that most Victorian women were naive geese from whom men could get aid to establish their own responsibilities. 'Little girl' was the word that John said his wife seemed to be a child. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Gaskell, a man devoted to science and the creator of wife and daughter (1866), also used 'my little Molly' and 'goose' as pet names for his daughter bright and dutiful. It just shows that women are ignorant.

The Awakening and The Yellow Wallpaper show some differences in social constraints. In The Awakening, Edna's painting; from the move out of the house of her husband, even though her husband doesn't like it, she has not invited guests. After Edna gradually awakened, he began to live in his own way. The mistress of the unknown minister totally controlled by her husband, she is seen as a patient, not the freedom of thinking and writing.

In The Awakening, Edna feels that the buildings on the big island and in New Orleans are like cages. On the big island, she longed to play the role of a mother-woman; In New Orleans, she longed to be a free woman. At that time, there was no denying that the role of women as wives and daughters of men depended on men. By law, a husband and wife are one after marriage. In other words, 'in the beginning, whether a woman is valuable or not depends entirely on her husband, except that wives should obey him completely.' (Millett) In New Orleans, not only women but their property, such as the money they earned and the clothes they owned, belonged to their husbands when they married. Until 1888, the father was still the guardian of the child and the property was available for divorce. 'The wife, however, is under her husband's control and should obey him completely.' (Culley) Despite all the social and political developments, in Louisiana in the 1890s women continued to suffer from injustice and inferiority in almost every way; Many still believe that a woman's most sacred duty is to 'serve the angels of the house.'

For Edna, the world is depressing and boring. Edna was disturbed by Adele's situation, and sympathized with 'blind satisfaction.' Increasingly, she felt that life was full of 'shocking and hopeless boredom'(Kate). But in The Yellow Wallpaper, when John goes out, his sister, Jenny, prefers to keep herself busy enjoying “good times with the children” and even “being a competent and passionate gatekeeper” (Gilman) rather than wishing for a better job. It shifts more attention to the narrator.

The narrator accepts his status unconditionally. What's more, in her opinion, it was writing that caused the heroine's illness. So she prefers not to have to write. Jenny not only protected the male-dominated system and the patriarchal values but she was also assimilated and even enslaved by them. Apart from John and Jenny, the heroine can't seem to take it anymore, but wallpaper says, 'these ridiculous, determined people are everywhere... These people have their eyes on you... Staring at you from head to toe.”(Gilman) In short, living in such intolerable conditions, it is impossible for the heroine to be allowed to express her will. On the one hand, the house in which we live is so remote that we feel hopeless. On the other hand, people around her, even static things, especially the wallpaper, were watching her all the time. Judith is the world's top writer in literature. In 1972, a revised version of her book Cinderella was published. In this version, when the prince puts on Cinderella's glass slipper, she realizes that the prince is not as handsome as he was that night. So she pretended they were too small. The revised version embodies the core concept of feminism. In the past, women were always ruled by a harsh and unfair patriarchal system and did not have the freedom to participate in political, economic, and social activities. Not only do men classify women as 'irrelevant', but everything about women is dictated to them by men. The heroine of The Yellow Wallpaper suffers all of the above. On the other hand, endure physical limitations. In other words, the role of a woman in the 19th century was simply to bear and raise children.

John dismissed all his wife's thoughts: no matter how she felt about the house and the wallpaper, how she had developed the disease. Moreover, he would not allow his wife to do any work, and he had forbidden everything that might contribute to her happiness, including writing. She pointed out that 'he hated any word I wrote,' and that he had decided to wipe out her 'extraordinary imagination and habit of making stories.'(Gilman)

In fact, the heroine doesn't even have the right to decide which room to live in. Although she was looking forward to a more comfortable room downstairs, John asked her to stay in the old nursery. And John ignored her intense fear of the repulsive yellow wallpaper. It seemed to him that he could not satisfy her desire to change the wallpaper; If she changed the wallpaper, she would ask for a comfortable bed, a grated window, and a door. He had never considered repairing the house because he had decided to keep her in one room for as long as three months. She had also told her husband that she wanted to visit Cushing Henry and Julia and thought he might agree. But John said she was incapable of going, and could not bear it if she did. Because she could not find a suitable reason, and her husband did not agree with her idea, she began to cry. When she tried to mention her illness to her husband, he suddenly sat up straight and stared at her sternly. John, acting as a doctor, asked her to listen to him instead of following his 'wrong and stupid' ideas. (Gilman)

John told her directly that her 'sentence' would increase as long as she wasn't getting better. 'John said if I got better soon, he'd send me to Will Mitchell in the fall. But I don't want to go there at all. I have a friend who has touched him, and she says he is just like John and my brother. Only worse!' (Gilman) Unable to escape the cruel and unfair treatment of such a male doctor, the heroine can only ignore her ideas, but disguise her past lifestyle.

In short, the social constraints in these two novels are somewhat different. Edna is free in a way. But the unnamed heroine of The Yellow Wallpaper has no freedom.

Generally speaking, Edna, the hero of The Awakening, is a lonely and withdrawn woman. The author describes her state of loneliness, her relationship with the people around her, and the symbolic objects about her. With a lonely soul, Edna begins to understand the world. She began to realize that she wanted to pursue a personal life. She began to doubt and reject women's duty as mothers in society and the outdated concept of women's chastity, which became the theme of her later female literature. Her image is a good way to illustrate that women are not born in the same way, but acquired. After self-awakening, a new era of women also came into being. As a lonely soul, Edna's awakening is logical. The first difficulty with The Yellow Wallpaper was publication; However, after overcoming the difficulties, it not only attracted the attention of many critics, but also was considered the normative literary significance: the nature of the story, the meaning of the wallpaper, the fate of the narrator, and the argument of her crawling problem. Critics regarded The Yellow Wallpaper as Gilman's finest work. Moreover, it not only raised women's self-consciousness one by one but also freed women in the 19th century from what had been suppressed and repressed in the family and society.

Both novels are about women's consciousness and the aggressive patriarchal culture, but the difference is that the two heroines in these two novels create different environments and face different dilemmas. The heroines try to express themselves in their own way, and they seem happy in the real situation of the novel because their husbands try to make them happy. But in The Yellow Wallpaper, the heroine doesn't even have her own name but is confined to a room, which means she is not free and unhappy. At the end of the novel, the unnamed narrator becomes a madman and Edna throws away her life and is drowned in the sea. Both of these works illustrate the social status of women at that time, telling us that in this male-dominated society, women have no right to do what they really want. Finally, although men still play a dominant role in society, women already know how to be themselves. Although the awakening of women was finally suppressed, these two novels still greatly promoted the awakening of female consciousness.

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Compare and Contrast Essay: “The Yellow Wallpaper” and “The Awakening”. (2024, January 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 16, 2024, from
“Compare and Contrast Essay: “The Yellow Wallpaper” and “The Awakening”.” Edubirdie, 18 Jan. 2024,
Compare and Contrast Essay: “The Yellow Wallpaper” and “The Awakening”. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 16 Jul. 2024].
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