While Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Kincaid’s “Girl” share many similarities, important aspects of the structure of both stories differ in various ways including literary devices and the use of settings. Gilman’s short story is able to connect gender inequality experienced by women in the 1890’s and how they have not been treated as equal to men in society. Gilman has created the story to bring forth social issues apparent in today’s society as shown when the woman suggests that her husband knows best, “I lie down ever so much now. John says it is good for me, and to sleep all I can”.
An article written in light of reading “The Yellow Wallpaper” insists that, “We then attempt to shed light on the issue of traditional gender roles as an inseparable part of any patriarchal society, in particular, the American society during the nineteenth century, the same society in which our narrator and her husband are living” (Ghandeharion and Milad). These quotations exhibit how during these years, men have had a substantial influence on women’s lives compared to the modern-day and Gilman takes a gothic approach on these issues. An unreliable narration forces the audience to be unsure of whether the woman is really seeing horrific images during the night or is sadly being challenged by mental illness. It is vital to acknowledge that the unreliable narration correlates to the inability to take women seriously in the 1980s.
In short, patriarchal views in the nineteenth century caused injustice as women were seen as unreliable, just as the readers are unable to trust the narrator. To continue, unlike Kincaid’s “Girl” which consists mostly of dialogue, Gilman uses symbolism to further her gothic narrative and utilize the setting as an advantage. As the protagonist convinces herself that someone is trapped behind the wallpaper, readers are able to draw a connection to how women are “trapped” by the gender roles assigned to them.
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On the other hand, Kincaid focuses on the dialogue between mother and daughter rather than building an intricate setting. She does not focus as much on providing symbols or a complex narrator, instead, she chooses to evoke a response by making the audience feel similar to how the girl may be feeling. “Girl” exposes the truth around gender stereotypes thriving in today’s society because many mothers expect their daughters to lead similar lives. From the mother’s perspective, she may only be trying to help her daughter but years of social issues surrounding the behaviour and appearance of women have come to the conclusion that these are toxic beliefs. Despite the story not ending in a dramatic loss of sanity, much of the horror is still apparent as the mother speaks so intensely to her daughter as displayed in this quotation “…and this way they won’t recognize immediately the slut I have warned you against becoming; be sure to wash every day…” (Kincaid INSERT NUMBER). Readers are invited to understand the concept of how women at such a young age are pressured to live according to society’s set rules. In fact, a major difference between Kincaid and Gilman is that rather than a man enforcing ideas onto the young woman, it is her own mother. Kincaid’s syntax strategically forms her short story to be separated only by semicolons in an attempt to overwhelm the audience with information.
Likewise, Kincaid ensures each comment by the mother does not go into detail of what she is explaining, thus enabling the writing to be impactful because of diction. This is done purposely to separate “Girl” from similar stories about gender inequality as to put the reader in the shoes of such difficult realities. Acquiring the truth about how women have been treated in history can provide a pathway to understanding our wrongdoings. Moreover, it is imperative to challenge old and new views as they might not be the correct way of thinking. Oftentimes humans find themselves altering how they understand something due to inequality that has been a result of it. When reviewing Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Kincaid’s “Girl” it becomes apparent that social issues of gender equality have been occurring in society for many years.
Each author distinctly explores issues of gender inequality through their writing and while some literary aspects of their stories widely differ, the use of gender stereotypes is fundamentally the same. Gilman and Kincaid both argue the importance of women’s rights as well as portray how the families justify their actions of enforcing gender stereotypes. Although, Kincaid and Gilman focus on different writing styles to portray the use of gender roles in society. It is only through knowledge acquired by literature can negative views on gender be constantly changing for the better. Regardless of hardships, these women do their best to educate the population through their literature and break barriers with their works becoming vehicles for social commentary.