Act of Defiance in Women Literature
Charlotte Perkins Gilman “The Yellow Wall-Paper,” depicted a revolution against the Androcentric culture, where women were oppressed and denied the access to social and economic empowerment. Gilman wrote a gothic tale that gave a detailed male hysteria concerning women. Also, it addressed the thematic concern of rebellion, women confinement and the repressive male antagonistic culture. The text shows an attempt to create a different figure from the normal autonomy that was subjected by their male counterparts, besides it reflected a culture which was very vivid during that period. The narrator employs the first person narration, to narrate her story, caught in between the real world and the stream of consciousness within her imagination, the grotesque image acted as a presentation of women within the nineteenth century, pointing out the social forces that repressed the ultimate value of a woman in the society eventually she was defeated.
According to Golden the author’s ultimate aim was to make the world suit her and therefore she wrote about achieving gender equity and speaking against inequality, there is something beyond the woman at home other than carrying out homely duties, the focal point in the text was directed towards the domestic territory of the women (Golden & Zangrando 35). Perkins attempted to subvert the society from the norms of the woman as a home keeper and believed that women too could be out doing the world’s work. The narrator is a rebellious character who is oppressed by his husband John, he believes in the patriarchal perspectives, and as Perkins tries to liberate herself ironically, this leads her to insanity at the expense of freedom. Her husband did not tolerate Perkins imagination and John compared her wife to a child, the Gothic alternative she turns to is symbolic of the struggles that women go through from their homes and the vast society. Feminist, unlike male editors, comprehend with the narrator’s search for freedom; they tend to critic the text as an act of defiance that will come in due course voice out the difficulties faced by women in their homes. The narrator clarifies this by pulling the wallpaper, through John’s lack of understanding; the narrator resorts to the wallpaper with the belief that it is symbolic of the oppressiveness in her marriage. Her description of the wallpaper reflects her as a prisoner unable to liberate herself from the societal constructs. Marriage offered a platform where men exercised their patriarchal rights over women, an overt theme that Gilman opted to deal with in the text, she advocated for conjoint love and respect.
The narrator is an encoded character who evaluates the situation at hand consciously, aware of the problems of psychology that are caused by emotional breakdown. The mental illness that the narrator goes through lead her to despair and the postpartum psychosis, being disillusioned in her marriage which ought to breed joy, it was full of hopelessness and sadness. Contemporary readers classify the text under an attempt to question the gender roles. Women are viewed as weaker objects that can be perceived only from their imagination whereas men exemplify rationalism and realism in their thinking and their deeds. Gilman’s narration is a flashback and an allegory to her life while she was still a child. Male chauvinism was a practice that was practiced by her family even while she was still a little girl at some point her mother asked her to forgo daydreaming and she observed it, later on in the text when the narrator is ordered to rest, she mentally begins to explore the paper and this poses concern to John. He views this from a different perspective and conjoins the two that is the art and imagination as a threat to his materialistic universe. The ancient society suppresses the woman in the society furthermore it promotes the fear of imagination. The conflict in the family, later on, leads to madness as the narrator is first alienated from the society before she is alienated from herself and the state of mind loss; she attempts to separate herself from the traditional role of a wife. This style of writing that results in loss of mind by the female protagonist in a story was adapted by most writers, for instance, Jean Rhys in the Wide Sargasso Sea. The pattern of the wallpaper and the bars illustrated the trapped nature of the female gender roles and their inability to catapult for their voices in the trapped gender roles. The window is a symbol of emancipation, and Madness is another form of liberation She freed herself from the daily duties of a wife and mother and no one not even Jane the wife she can put her back (Gilman 298).Women who wrote in this period of writing championed for defiance, an act of women empowerment to strike a balance within the gender roles in the society, literature was also used to change the perception of the society and invite room for literary critics.
The author has employed various literary devices to develop the plot and the thematic concerns among them, from the inception the reader has exposed the officious character of John, situational irony crops up when he fails to give the maximum narrator attention while she is sick and rather terms it as a great relief of the mind. The narrator is symbolically representing the women during that era, and she fears her husband who exercises complete control over her, he oppresses and dictates her. The narrator is viewed as submissive when the author employs the stream of consciousness as a feature of style, she creeps into the thoughts of the narrator, and Gilman provides a platform where the readers see through the thoughts of the narrator directly. The readers feel that they are in touch with the narrator who is depicted as submissive and helpless.
The narrator’s subservience, show how obsessed she is with the yellow wallpaper, by alienating her, with an attempt to solve her mental condition, the wallpaper makes her go insane.
She, therefore, cannot withstand it, her focus, however, is on one woman, she supposes that she is also trapped as well and she likens herself to lady trapped in the wallpaper. The wallpaper makes her develop the illusion of people around her attributing her madness to her mental condition and her inferiority to her husband.
According to Hume, Women in Classic novels agitated against their period, for ages women were portrayed to be quiet when it came to decision making, they were submissive and to care of their households( Hume 16). The authors tried to sabotage the norm presenting a new face of ideal women, the journey to women empowerment began with the need to achieve gender equity and the redefinition of woman identity, bringing out a complete figure of the transformation in the society.
Gilman, C .P “The Yellow Wallpaper “Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry 9th Ed.New York; Longman 2007: pp 290-301
Golden, C. P, and Zangrando, J.S eds “ The Mixed Legacy of Charlotte Perkins Gilman” Cranbury; Associated University Presses 2000: pp 35
Hume, B.A “Managing Madness in Gilman’s ”The Yellow Wallpaper” “Studies in American Fiction Detroit (2002) pp 15-20.