Feminism in the Yellow Wallpaper and the Story of an Hour
Throughout “The Yellow Wallpaper”, written by Charlotte Perkins Gillman, the protagonist is described as a woman of the 1800’s facing oppression by male dominance. In comparison, the protagonist from Kate Chopin’s, “The Story of an Hour”, experiences the same oppression. Both protagonists are dealing with some type of loss over the course of their short story, but in contrast the effectiveness of their loss differs on opposite ends of the spectrum. Ultimately both protagonists are portrayed as women who experience loss and oppression, but how the difference in loss affects each individual varies from joy to sadness.
During this period of time, women were granted few rights. Overall the female gender was expected to reproduce and take care of their husbands. As Kate Chopin writes, “But she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely. And she opened and spread her arms out to them in welcome” (94), along with that, Gillman states, “He said I was his darling and his comfort and all he had, and that I must take care of myself for his sake” (85). The death of Chopin’s narrator’s husband passing away brought her freedom and self-discovery. Granted the will to no longer serve to her husband’s needs allows her to spend more time on herself. The pure joy felt by the narrator exemplifies how women were held accountable of taking care of everything else besides themselves. In comparison, Gillman’s narrator feels pressured to get better not for herself, but because her husband relies heavily on her nurturing.
Along with these quotes, one of the more talked about right women were not granted in relevance to “The Yellow Wallpaper” included the ability to read and write. Jane, the narrator in this specific short story, mentions her writing in secret. For instance, “I did write for a while in spite of them; but it does exhaust me a good deal—having to be so sly about it, or else meet with heavy opposition” (80), along with “And I know John would think it absurd. But I must say what I feel and think in some way—it is such a relief!” (85). These statements provided give examples to the claim that women were not granted the right to think for themselves or express how they feel. Thus, another example of oppression. All statements provided support the claim both women were facing oppression by the primary men in their lives.
Another comparison that can double as a contrast between these two women was their experience of loss. The narrator from “The Yellow Wallpaper” lost herself. Over the course of the story, Jane becomes so fixated on the wallpaper and her illness that she loses her sense of self-identity. One example from the text includes, ““I’ve got out at last”, said I, “in spite of you and Jane. And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back” (92). This statement was from Jane directly, referring to herself in third person as if she was a completely different entity. She continues to go on referring to herself that way at throughout the ending of the story. At this point, Jane has lost her sanity and believes to be the women she claimed seeing behind the wallpaper. On the other hand, the Chopin’s narrator experienced a physical loss; the loss of her husband. The author makes is known the husband has passed away early in the story. Even though her husband’s passing left her joyful, she did mention briefly she cared for him when the narrator said, “She knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death” (94). Although their losses were different, in a sense they have both lost something dear to them.
It is known that there are different ways to cope with losses and everyone grieves differently, but these two women could not have reacted anymore opposite. Gillman’s narrator reacted in complete sorrow and isolation. As Jane is gradually losing herself more over the course of the story, her body is deteriorating along with her mind. For example, written in the text, ““I don’t weigh a bit more,” said I, “nor as much; and my appetite may be better in the evening when you are here but it is worse in the morning when you are away” (86). As the text exemplifies Jane can not eat, nor gain weight. In fact, she is losing weight from this illness. Both symptoms are clear indicators that she is getting worse. On the other hand, Chopin’s protagonist was filled with great joy upon the news of her husband’s passing. Multiple times after her findings, the protagonist repeats the word free, feeling freedom from constantly serving a man. In the text Chopin writes, “But she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely. And she opened and spread her arms out to them in welcome” (94). The feeling of no longer having to serve to her husband has allowed the women to begin imagining self-discovery and living for only herself; pure joy and happiness.
Ultimately it can be exemplified these short stories were written in comparison and contrast when analyzing the two. As women during a period time before the Women’s Rights movement, life was difficult and unfair; portraying men as the dominant gender. Charlotte Perkins Gillman’s narrator was forced to hide her thoughts by writing in secret, along with struggling through sickness that was dismissed by her husband and not taken seriously. Kate Chopin’s protagonist was held captive by societal norms, having to serve her husband. Overall both of these women were suffering through oppression from the primary men in their lives and dealt with loss, but the way they handled their loss differed drastically.