What does ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ suggest about the role of women in 1892?
‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ is a chilling story centered around the theme of feminist rights. It emphasizes the way women were treated back in 1892, and highlights how women were subservient to men. The role of women back in the late 19th century was to be obedient and listen to the orders of men, regardless of their own concerns or thoughts.
The protagonist in ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ suffers from post-natal depression and is submitted to the treatment of the ‘resting cure’ by her husband, against her own better judgment. Through the way she gradually loses her sanity to her imagination- her room’s wallpaper transforms into a grotesque, live, eerie woman trapped behind bars- she shows how terribly mistreated women were in the 19th Century.
The anagnorisis at the end of the story is the most important (and most shocking) message Gilman gets across about feminist rights in the story. There is a sudden recognition of the protagonist’s identity- “I’ve got out at last”, she writes, “In spite of [John] and Jennie! And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back!” Her outburst shocks and traumatizes the readers- she was the woman trapped in the wallpaper throughout the duration of the story.Gilman builds up the suspense and mystery to release the powerful message that the protagonist is so oppressed and mistreated she begins to imagine herself trapped in the wallpaper. The protagonist is an allegory- she is representative of the entire world of women trapped and subdued by men. This sudden recognition of the character’s true identity also shows how the bad treatment of women in the Victorian age affected their sanity. Men looked down on women in that time period, and women were expected to dedicate their lives to the wishes of men.
Gilman also uses punctuation to highlight the subordinance of women in the late 19th Century. The protagonist uses punctuation to express her frustration in regards to the way she was treated. ‘You see, he does not believe I am sick!” She uses an exclamation mark to show her disbelief and outrage- depicting the unfortunate scene where women were callously treated by the superior gender- males. She then writes: ‘But what is one to do?” Her use of the question make emphasizes how lost and helpless she is- not because she has no opinion and knowledge over how to improve her condition, but rather because her husband will not listen to her point of view. This shows how women were grossly mistreated and repressed in the late 19th century. A woman’s role was to listen to her husband regardless of what is best for herself. Her husband refused to believe she was sick- although he is quite a caring character in the story- infuriating readers and making us come to the conclusion that women were unfairly subjected to the domineering views of men.