In today’s society, there is a division based on gender roles. Gender roles are what society expects based on the sex of the person. For example, a male is classified as self-confident and aggressive while a female is friendly and emotional. During the late nineteenth century, gender roles were defined. In this time period, the role of women in society was prevented. Many gender stereotypes have been present in the past and are still present even today. In the short story ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman it displays how a male rule over a female. The Theme of the story is the oppressive nature of gender roles and is it shown throughout the entire story. The female gender is characterized by limited opportunity compared to male.
The short story illustrates what many women faced during the nineteenth century. In the story ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ Jane is an upper-middle-class woman who is the narrator. The story is told in first-person narration based on her own feelings. The narrator is going through postpartum depression which reveals sadness and emptiness symptoms. John is her husband as well as her physician who thinks he is helping Jane with her condition but is making it worse. Minor characters in the story are Jennie and Mary. Jennie is John’s sister who seems to be a housekeeper in the summer home that the family is staying in. She is Jane’s caretaker as well. Mary is just the nanny who takes care of Jane and John’s baby.
John decided to take his wife to a colonial mansion to rest. He believes it will do her good to relax from the outside world. Jane describes the beautiful gardens of the place and how she has never seen any garden neat. Although she insists that there is “something strange about the house – I can feel it” (23). John ignores Jane’s perspective of the home. The narrator wants to stay in a room downstairs because she likes how the roses from the garden are near the window. However, John insisted on getting a room upstairs. At the time this story happened the only treatment for Jane’s condition was a ‘rest cure’. This treatment is when the patient is placed in a remoteness area from distractions. However, keeping her isolated was actually worse than the condition itself. The physician has forbidden Jane journeys, air, exercise, and any type of work to be done. Jane stated ‘Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good. But what is one to do” (14)? Jane disagrees with her husband about being isolated. She prefers to do work because it will help her, but she cannot override what he says. During these times it was believed that men were the ones with credibility and the opinions could not be challenged. Jane is powerless within her marriage when she says ‘ I sometimes fancy in my condition if I had less opposition and more society and stimulus – but John says the very worst thing I can do is think about my condition, and confess it always makes me feel bad’ (17). Meaning she cannot do anything but maintain silence and keep her thoughts to herself. John has control of Jane and keeping her from expressing her opinions.
John decides that the big airy room upstairs known as a nursery will be the room Jane and John will be staying in. She mentions that the windows are barred for someone like children ‘rings and things’ in the walls. Jane is disturbed by the yellow wallpaper in the room, with a lack of a definite pattern. She describes the color as ‘repellent’ and mentions how the children must have hated it. Jane suggests John about repapering the room they are staying in, but he scoffs at her thought. Later throughout the story, Jane has a journal where she is writing her thoughts down. Her Husband John has forced her to stop writing in it. However, as weeks pass Jane becomes really good at hiding her thoughts in the journal. As said in the “The Ascent of Man” article that men have always hold certain positions or have a say in the relationship than female (Anathawamys and Douglas). In this story, John has a say in his and Jane’s relationship. John makes all the decisions for her because he believes he knows what is right. Jane wants to express her creative thoughts and have a say, but she cannot because she is only a female. There is nothing, she can do about it to change John’s mind. In the late nineteenth century, females were defined as the caretakers, housekeepers’ wives and mothers. Jennie is an example of the type of way a female should act. The female stayed managing households and watching over the children while the father worked in professions and enjoyed the freedom. Women did not want to be at all times inside the home. They encountered opposition from society by wanting to work outside the home.
Jennie is in charge of all the narrator’s duties that she cannot perform. She is in charge of monitoring Jane’s conduct in the absence of John. The narrator sees that she is unable to do social functions as a mother and wife. John will not let Jane spend time with her little boy. During the time a female was expected to be a household wife or be a helpless child and nothing else. Jane realizes there is nothing she can do because all John ever does is discourages her from engaging her imagination in any type of way. In a journal, it talks about how society has placed women in one certain category but should not be like that. A woman should be able to make decisions for their own without having to have someone to oppose. The journal explains that a female should not feel governed by a male just simply because a male has authority (Davidson). Jane is stuck in the room upstairs and personifies the wallpaper as mischievous and vigilant.
As Jane spends most of her time in the room, she begins to trace the patterns of the wall and see the shape of a hidden figure behind the wallpaper. The narrator becomes obsessed with the yellow wallpaper in the bedroom. Weeks pass by and the narrator is getting weak to do any writing in her journal, therefore, becomes fond and later captivated by the wallpaper. Jane is easily tired and cries the majority of the time. Due to her tiredness, she limits her physical activities and is always laying down. For the Fourth of July, John figured if Jane had a little company for that week it would make her feel better. However, Jane could not do anything Jennie was the one in charge of making the guest comfortable. Jane is getting weak as time passes by and explains in the text, “John says if I don’t pick up faster, he shall send to Weir Mitchell” (86). Weir Mitchell is a Philadelphia neurologist-psychologist who introduced the “rest cure” for the nervous disease. Jane says she does not want to go to him because she knows of someone who went and is much worse than her husband. Johns is basically treating Jane that if she does not get better faster, he will have no choice than to send her. John is acting as if she is the one to blame when it really is him.
The narrator requests to go visit friends but John denies the request. He explains to her that it would not be a good idea due to her condition and how weak she is. He says, “her recovery is a matter of will and self-control” (117). He means that she must manage her actions, feelings, and emotions on her own. He tells her having people around will not do it for her. Jane is determined to find a purpose to the pattern on the wallpaper, but she gets tired of just thinking about it. As the narrator continues to watch the wallpaper the shape of a woman is becoming clear within the patterns. Jennie and John try to figure out what is the mystery of the wallpaper. They even become more concern when Jennie spots smudges on her and John’s clothes. Jane is determined and says that nobody shall find out about them but her. As Jane is studying the wallpaper more and more, she begins to get her energy back. She starts eating more and finds life more exciting because there is something to look forward to. Her husband is happy that she is starting to pick back up. She has no intentions in revealing the energy the wallpaper has given her. She does not want to tell him the reason behind it because she is afraid that he will make fun of her.
Jane has one week left to figure out the situation with the wallpaper before she leaves. The week goes on and she finds more characteristics of the wallpaper: yellow odor that is within the house and hangs over her and marks found near the mop-board. She even notices how the patterns move around. Jane sees a creeping woman shaking the front and trying to come out. She sees that same woman creeping in the garden. She then describes her own self creeping the bedroom during daylight and night. The last night of Jane’s stay arrived and John was not home only Jennie and her. Jennie volunteered to sleep with Jane, but she told her that it would be best if she rested alone. However, Jane had a plan and was not going to sleep instead she was going to let the woman inside the moving patterns come out. Jane states “As soon as it was moonlight and that poor thing began to crawl and shake the pattern, I got up and ran to help her” (220). By the time it was morning the yards of yellow wallpaper was torn off to set free the women trapped which is her. In the article by Cruz, he talks about social gender differences and how society and culture create all the gender roles (Cruz). Gender roles change throughout the change of time. Femininity and masculinity are a bit more different than they were back in the ninetieth century.
Jane let the women in the yellow wallpaper escape. Once she tore the paper off, she did not let anyone in the bedroom. Jane wanted to wait on John to get home as she states, “I don’t want to go out, and I don’t want to have anybody come in, till John comes – I want to astonish him” (237). John ended up arriving at the house went upstairs to the bedroom, but the door was locked. He knocked and knocked but Jane would not open the door. Jane tossed the key out the window down by the front steps. She told him to go get the key so he could come into the room. John eventually went to go get the key and opened the bedroom door. When John went in, he was shocked by what she was doing to the wall. He said, “For God’s sake, what are you doing” (264). Jane tells John that she has finally broken out. She explains that there is nothing he can do about it. John ended up fainting at the end of the story. Fainting has common connection femininity because fainting means that someone is not physically strong enough. The fact that John faints means he is the weak one and not her. Fainting represents a winning for her towards the end of the story. John did not think Jane’s outcome would turn out like that he thought the opposite. Jane feels relieved that she is now free to express herself without anyone stopping her. In the article by Brooke, it explains how back in the olden day’s women were not allowed to express or do anything for themselves (Brooke). This article relates to the short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” because that is exactly what John was doing with Jane not letting her be who she wanted to be.
In this story, the women trapped inside the wallpaper not only represent Jane but all of the women. Jane speaks what it is like to be a woman who is not allowed to speak for herself but by her husband. She knows how it feels to be trapped inside of a wall and not finding a way out. Jane tearing down the wallpaper is showing how she is tearing female oppression and getting rid of any societal expectation. Many women in the late nineteenth century dealt with female oppression and felt trapped inside a while. Many were afraid to stand up to the male and went through what Jane had to go through. Unlike Jane, she was determined to find out what was behind the wallpaper. John made it seem as if his reasons to keep her in the room were because of Jane’s illness. Today there are women who are trapped in a wall like Jane was, but time has shifted. Women are allowed rights to show who they are and not be afraid to do it. The movement powered by the women has made in the world today. No male should hold a female under their control.