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Essay on the Feminism in 'The Yellow Wallpaper' and 'The Story of an Hour'

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In the nineteenth century, women were oppressed in American society at the time, and it was dangerous for women to fight back. The women’s role in society wasn’t pleasant either and no one could fully understand what it meant to be a woman or the hardships they were faced with at the time, to which they also weren’t allowed to have very much freedom. Both ” The Story of An Hour” and ” The Yellow Wallpaper” depict the relationships between men and women. These two stories highlight the hardships of women’s desire for independence, freedom and how the norms of society at the time played a significant role in their lives at the time.

If you were a married woman in the nineteen century you were expected to stay home and look after the children while your husband worked. If you weren’t married you could work, but usually only as a waitress or cooking or even cleaning. Young women were expected to get married and have children because that is what was considered “normal” in society at the time. Men treated women like they were less than because at the time men were considered to be the alpha male and the bosses, so they restricted women from doing certain things nor were they allowed to really have an opinion when their husbands were around, and they had very little freedom. In the story “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin, you can see many of these issues. For example, in the story, Chopin writes, “There would be no one to live for her during those coming years; she would live for herself. There will be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow creature.” (Chopin page 2)This detail is a representation of what many women must’ve felt being married and unallowed to do things for themselves, so when Mrs. Mallard finds out that her husband dies, she realizes that she could finally be able to live for herself and be her own person and not the person that the man she married wanted her to be just like other women who were married during the nineteenth century. You can also see this in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins and how husbands were the decision makers and the women were almost like “property” that they control and that a woman should never question the man’s authority. In both of these stories, the narrators find their husbands seeing them as almost a thing that they want to be able to control rather than their lovers or even humans who are perfectly capable of thinking for themselves. This was similar to what most women were facing around the world at the time.

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Mental health was something that was very disregarded during this time period especially when it came to women because most of the doctors at the time were men and couldn’t fully understand what they were going through. This concept was also seen in “The Yellow Wallpaper” when the physician diagnoses the narrator with “temporary nervous depression- a slight hysterical tendency” (Gilman page 1) and tells her she will get better if she confines herself to her room. Her condition was not a “temporary nervous depression- a slight hysterical tendency” as the doctor says, but rather the fact that she just gave birth to a baby and was probably suffering from post-partum depression which is foreshadowed in the story. The story writes, “It is fortunate Mary is so good with the baby. Such a dear baby! And, yet I cannot be with him, it makes me so nervous”. (Gilman page 4) This shows that during this time period, doctors weren’t equipped or knowledgeable about certain mental health issues because they simply couldn’t understand women well enough. This was a big issue back then because most of the time these women would feel alone and feel like they have no one since they weren’t understood and most of the time, they weren’t supported by their husbands who just thought they were having nervous breakdowns. Also, most physicians lacked understanding of mental health during this time period because mental health wasn’t something that you discussed or even had much insight on.

One of the biggest aspects that women were fighting for in the nineteenth century would be freedom, but many women realized that no matter what they did their husbands would never let them have it. During the time women were not allowed to express their opposition against men out in the open because social standards at the time did not allow them to do that, so they had to suffer and be unhappy about their marriages in private. In “The Story of an Hour” the narrator shows us how Louise Mallard is very unhappy with her marriage and how it plays a role in costing her freedom. Also, when she was told about her husband’s marriage, she locked herself in her room and expressed her feelings in private. For example, Chopin writes, “She knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death”. (Chopin page 2) This shows that even though Louise Mallard thinks that her husband is kind and loving and well sometimes she loved him, but it shows that his control over her life makes her feel stressed out which is why when her sister broke the news of her husband’s death you can see her sense of relief that she’s finally going to get her freedom back, but she only expresses it alone away from her sister. This is something also seen in “The Yellow Wallpaper” with the narrator who ultimately goes crazy because of her husband John and his treatment and care that prevent her from recovering. In “The Yellow Wallpaper” the narrator writes, “John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage. You see he does not believe that I am sick!”.(Gilman page 1) This shows how his neglect to realize his wife is sick not only doesn’t help her but also compromises her freedom because as long as she is unhappily married to John, she will never get the freedom she wants. This was the reality for most women in the nineteenth century and there wasn’t much for them to do about it until the women’s rights movement.

Therefore, the nineteenth century was a very poignant point in history that will never be forgotten not only because of the injustice society placed upon women but also because of the changes that came along. Even though women had to face these issues back then today we are stronger than ever and are much more respected than we were before, but we haven’t finished just yet.

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Essay on the Feminism in ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ and ‘The Story of an Hour’. (2023, October 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 3, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/essay-on-the-feminism-in-the-yellow-wallpaper-and-the-story-of-an-hour/
“Essay on the Feminism in ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ and ‘The Story of an Hour’.” Edubirdie, 09 Oct. 2023, edubirdie.com/examples/essay-on-the-feminism-in-the-yellow-wallpaper-and-the-story-of-an-hour/
Essay on the Feminism in ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ and ‘The Story of an Hour’. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/essay-on-the-feminism-in-the-yellow-wallpaper-and-the-story-of-an-hour/> [Accessed 3 Mar. 2024].
Essay on the Feminism in ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ and ‘The Story of an Hour’ [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Oct 09 [cited 2024 Mar 3]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/essay-on-the-feminism-in-the-yellow-wallpaper-and-the-story-of-an-hour/
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