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Suppression of Women in The Yellow Wallpaper

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Suppression of Women in The Yellow Wallpaper

 

"The Yellow Wallpaper," by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, tells the story of a woman's descent into madness as a result of the "rest and ignore the problem cure" that is frequently prescribed to cure hysteria and nervous conditions in women.  More importantly, the story is about control and attacks the role of women in society.  The narrator of the story is symbolic for all women in the late 1800s, a prisoner of a confining society.  Women are expected to bear children, keep house and do only as they are told.  Since men are privileged enough to have education, they hold jobs and make all the decisions.  Thus, women are cast into the prison of acquiescence because they live in a world dominated by men.  Since men suppress women, John, the narrator's husband, is presumed to have control over the protagonist.  Gilman, however, suggests otherwise.  She implies that it is a combination of society's control as well as the woman's personal weakness that contribute to the suppression of women.  These two factors result in the woman's inability to make her own decisions and voice opposition to men.

 

      John, the narrator's husband, represents society at large.  Like society, John controls and determines much of what his wife should or should not do, leaving his wife incapable of making her own decisions.  John's domineering nature can be accredited to the fact that John is male and also a "physician of high standing" (1).  John is "practical in the extreme.  He has no patience with faith, an intense horror of superstition, and he scoffs openly at any talk of thi...


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...nd alarmed to see her behaving that way.  She has to keep "creeping" over John, even in the end, and it shows that a woman is not much different from a man, in the aspect of being a self-governing individual.  People need to have control over their own lives and the ability to make their own decisions, even women.  People cannot always make assumptions for what is best for others.  We have learned this from John:  John demonstrates that the best way to help someone is to have the patience to really listen and find out what that person truly wants, not simply making assumptions about what is right when its not in the other's best personal interest.  But until every woman is treated in this manner, she will be driven into her own world of insanity where she continues "creeping" over all who try to control her.   


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