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A Feminist Critique of The Yellow Wallpaper

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“John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage”. Just imagine having to mask your true self. Having to hide all your talents just because you’re a certain sex. Women had to deal with this for centuries. Men thought women were just housekeepers and mothers. They thought it would be crazy if a woman wanted to have a job or if women wanted to own property. Women were nothing more than pets. In the story, The Yellow Wallpaper, a woman is supposedly sick. She doesn’t believe she is sick. She is starting to have her own ideas and her husband just thinks she is sick. So she is stuck in a room with just her thoughts. She experiences something no one would expect. Using feminist criticism, the reader can analyze Charlotte Perkins-Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper through symbols, character, and dialogue.

The narrator was stuck up in a room. She looks at the yellow wallpaper and it drives her crazy. This yellow wallpaper was taunting her. One day she saw it move and she realized something was behind the wallpaper. “The woman behind it shakes it”. (13) The yellow wallpaper represents society’s expectations for women. The woman behind the yellow wallpaper is trying to break free of society. The woman behind the wallpaper is the narrator. She was trying to break free from society’s expectations on women. She has her own ideas and feelings and society doesn’t like that. Society wants her naïve and obedient. However, she is the opposite of that. She breaks free of society. The narrator’s husband is a typical man. He thinks he knows everything and treats the narrator like a pet. When she breaks free of society, he experiences the baggage that women have to deal with because of society. “Now why should that man have fainted?” (17) He took the role of a woman. He fainted because the baggage is just too great for a man to deal with. Women had to deal with so much. NOT ANYMORE!

The narrator was a nice woman. She felt very guilty because she was such a burden on John. “I meant to be such a help to John, such a real rest and comfort, and here ia m a comparative burden already!” (3) Women have to be a huge help to their husbands. They have to do everything that involves the house. The narrator wasn’t able to do anything because she was “sick”. Even though her husband was the one who was keeping her that way. He didn’t want her to be around people. He wanted her to be a proper wife. A wife without ideas and feelings. The “perfect” woman. She starts to get sick and tired of living a lie. “I get unreasonably angry with John…” (9). She is getting angry at him for no reason because she is sick of having him put her down. He always makes her feel inferior to him. I think everyone who goes to college is like that. They come back home from their first year at college and they think they know everything. John is like a teenager who just came back from college. He tries to make the narrator feel like she doesn’t know anything and that she should just stop talking. Now she is getting angry with him and soon she will break free of his hold.

John talks to the narrator like she is a child or even a pet dog. He says little things that would be inappropriate to say to one’s wife. “What is it, little girl? He said” (9). He calls her little girl. Another time he called her a blessed little goose. He doesn’t treat her like his wife. He treats her like he is superior to her. If a man said that to me I would just stare at him and walk away. Only a father can call his daughter little girl or blessed little goose. Not someone who is your peer. It is like saying that women are as inexperienced as a child. John thinks that his wife is stupid. “I am a doctor, dear, and I know”. (9) He tries shutting her up. He is saying that he is a doctor and she should stop questioning him. She is just curious as to why she isn’t getting better. He thinks he is better than her. If she was given the same opportunities that he was given she would be just as successful as him. John laughs at her and treats her with disrespect. If a man treats a woman like that then I don’t believe he is a man at all.

This story shows how men thought that they were supposed to be superior to their wives. Women today are offered the same opportunities as men and women are just as successful as men. Women can do anything men can do. If someone’s rights are taken away, another’s rights can be taken away as well. Equality is a important factor in freedom. Men and women are born equal. Women have gone through many obstacles to get to where they are today. Today, women are just as useful as men are.





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