Gender Studies on the Yellow Wallpaper
Gender study is a field of study that highlights gender identity and gendered representation as central categories of analysis. Gender studies are based on a wide range of theoretical approaches, and it sheds its light on all categories of gender even though one might argue that it is inclined more towards the women’s studies (Bock 1). Gender study is important because it provides a platform for critical thinking and understanding of the contributions of women to the society (Bock 1). In the book, The Yellow Wallpaper, the writer uses his literary skills to address various issues on gender studies relating to women, and I am going to discuss them while giving backing evidence from the text. Although some may argue that The Yellow wallpaper is feminist, it highlights real and existent issues affecting women to date.
One of the issues that are vividly painted throughout the book is the gender roles in the nineteenth century American society. Gender roles are the set of social activities, and specific norms looked at as acceptable for either a man or a female in a society or an interpersonal relationship (Nevid 408). In this book, the author examines the role of women in different areas such as their role in the society, their role in their relationships with their husbands and their nature of dependence to their husbands for economic and social support (Nevid 408). This time in the history of the American society was masked by the effects of the Victorian era (Edles 230). The profound impact of the Victorian values on the social values of the American society implied that women were to behave demurely and remain in the confines of their homes while, on the other hand, men enjoyed unlimited freedom to exploit their dreams.
This is predominantly evident throughout the book in the relationship between the narrator and her husband John. After suffering from postpartum stress and depression due to the birth of her son, the narrator is advised to get complete bed rest by her husband and brother who are professional physicians. Her futile efforts to write and read are thrown off as insignificant because her roles do not stretch far enough to allow her to question the decisions of a physician. The issue of inferior gender roles becomes more pronounced as she secretly writes her journal. She makes it very clear in the journal that her husband is in charge of all the decision-making and that hers is that of being a charming wife and a competent mother.
Another issue that affects women and warrants the analysis through the application of gender studies is the oppression of women. Oppression in this context can be defined as the exercise of authority by men in a manner that is burdensome or cruel to women. It also encompasses the feelings of heavy mentally or physically burden (Schörkhuber 13). Oppression in this literal book has been heavily evident in the form of male dominance in extremely submissive relationships. It has also been featured through the interesting portrayal of the protagonist’s mental state through out her journals. It is evident that the American society in the nineteenth century was characterized by norms and behaviors that were bound to oppress women, seeing that women had very limited freedom as compared to the men. This is strongly supported by various instances in the literal book.
For instance, the author highlights the relationship between the oppressive husband, John and the submissive wife who is the protagonist. This psychologically abusive relationship is what eventually drives the narrator mad after a long-term case of depression. This is better evident in the symbolism employed by the author. The yellow wallpaper, which initially seemed ripped and unpleasant, continues to appreciate in significance as the book progresses. The protagonist starts to see women trapped behind bars trying to escape in the wallpaper, which marked the loss of her sanity. This wallpaper was employed by the author strategically to symbolize the many women trapped in their oppressive and depressive lives. Apart from the symbolism, this illustration further gives more evidence of oppression because of the unstable mental state of the narrator.
In addition, the lack independence of thought and the freedom of expression of women is also an issue that is addressed in the book. The women in this society have no freedom to exercise their self-expression (Schörkhuber 13). This was evident when the narrator has an earnest and reasonable discussion with her husband, John during which she requests to go and visit some relatives. Despite this being a reasonable request, he denies her the opportunity. In addition, this is evident when the narrator admits that she is secretly writing and reading because her husband is insistent that she rests. However, this limitation of the rights along gender lines can be effectively addressed through gender studies.
In conclusion, one can say gender study is a field of study that is important and essential in the positive transformation of any society (Bock 1). The simple fact that it has been applied effectively to highlight the issues that were affecting women in the nineteenth century implies that, the same results can be emulated in any other society existent today. Through the gender study, we have been able to single out inferior gender roles, oppression and lack of the freedom of expression as the issues that were affecting women in the nineteenth century. This further supports my claim at the beginning of this context, which stated that, “Although some may argue that The Yellow wallpaper is feminist, it highlights real and existent issues affecting women to date.”
Bock, Bettina B, and S Shortall. Rural Gender Relations: Issues and Case Studies. Wallingford, UK: CABI Pub, 2006. Web. May 7, 2013.
Edles, Laura D. Sociological Theory in the Classical Era: Text and Readings. London, UK: Sage Publications, 2005. Print.
Nevid, Jeffrey S. Psychology: Concepts and Applications. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co, 2009. Print.
Schörkhuber, Verena. Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “the Yellow Wallpaper”: an Analysis. München: GRIN Verlag GmbH, 2008. Web. May 7, 2013.