Gender roles in The yellow wallpaper

In the narrative of The Yellow Wallpaper, the character of the protagonist depicts that of a woman being demeaned because of her status as being a wife with ailment and who seemed to have no purpose at all. It can be seen that there is an internal struggle between the woman and her husband who have opposite views of what can make her well. The protagonist has a view that she will get well if she writes and does something exciting while her husband believes that she will get well if she does nothing. The husband’s belief over the matter was the one followed throughout the story. The paper mainly focuses on the instances when her desires succumbed to those of others.

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The recurring image of desires of the protagonist never took place in the narrative. It seemed that she could do nothing but long and hope to be well by merely having delusions over the yellow wallpaper which she caused her stress and anxiety. Another suppression which is quite obvious in the narrative is the removal of the yellow wall paper which was never granted. At the end of the story, it is not hard to deduce the very cause of the worsening of the protagonist’s health. This leads us to thinking of the lack of voice of the protagonist over the situation. The lack of voice, on the other hand, may originate from her status as a female in the society, in addition to the fact that she has an ailment which further aggravates her condition.

The imagery created was fantastically made; a woman in prison trying to escape is another depiction of suppressed freedom – the freedom to move and live her life the way she wanted it to be is what the image refers to, which again could be blamed on the fact of her being a female. While the male character, the doctor who is also her husband, does not really talk in the story, his authority is forever present both in the mind and in her surroundings. It is a setting of a typical society which gives high respect to the male head of the family. Again, in this narrative, John seemed to be omnipresent in the life of the protagonist, even if he was not there. Such status is not far from the situation of women in some countries whose lives revolve around the husbands and their whims as well as not far from former Japanese culture where the wife would die together with the husband because there is no sense living without the husband.

Another aspect that demeans the character of the protagonist is when she talks of leaving, and John makes light of the concerns, thus silencing the whole thing. It has always been said that the worst way to hurt a woman is by ignoring her, which is what has happened in the story. She was never heard, never asked and never entertained by her own family. Her longing to have company was never granted, and she remained to be entertained only by her own thoughts which led to the worsening of her condition.

The Yellow Wallpaper was a story within a story which revolves around the suppressed life of the narrator. Despite all the opportunities for her to speak and speak up, like in the whole of the narrative, still, there was the lack of her presence and voice in the life of other characters. The irony played a good part in making an impact to the readers. The effect is to show that the narrator becomes a “nobody”, not to speak the presence of her ailment which in the latter portion got worse because of the lack of attention from her family.

Finally, in this narrative, what is apparent is the commodification of a woman to play the part or role of a wife where the measure of her significance is limited. The voice is heard only on minor issues that do not impact the family. The frailty is what the story is centered on, the sickness which further demeans the character. This is something that is perhaps lessened in the modern age, as the women have learned to fight for their existence and significance.


Works Cited

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wallpaper. Minneapolis: First Avenue Editions, a Division of Lerner Publishing Group, 2017. Print.