Social Criticism In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’

Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s story “The Yellow Wallpaper” features social criticism. In it, Gilman discusses male chauvinism along with the feminist perspective in 19th-century America. The story shows how the patriarchal structure of men is compared to women’s subordinate status. Gilman’s idea behind “The Yellow Wallpaper”, was inspired by Gilman herself. Gilman is quoted to have said that Dr. S. Weir Mitchell was the one who created the story.

The story seems to show that women accept their roles as females in 19th-century society. Gilman shows how patriarchal societies have specific roles for men, women. “Jennie is an enthusiastic and perfect housekeeper and hopes to find a better job” shows the satisfaction some women feel with their work. According to the narrator Jennie is content as a housekeeper. She believes it is her role and that 19th-century society has made it so that she can’t see herself as having a better job. She isn’t interested in becoming more skilled or taking on the traditional roles of a woman. Stereotypical behavior is not only associated with gender roles. The narrator states that “it is the same woman, she is always sneaking,” which suggests there is some typical behavior among women. This generalization ultimately makes women look like one person, which can lead to a loss of identity. John, who displays manly attributes such as being rational and protective, coerces men in a patriarchal way. This is because he believes that men are expected to behave in a patriarchal way. His wife is constantly mocked and dismissed by him because he considers her a “little boy.” This is his disrespect for her ability to make decisions. The narrator feels trapped in her home, much like the mysterious woman hiding behind the yellow newspaper. She is forced to conform to the society’s gender roles and feminine behaviours. The Yellow Paper of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, clearly a social critic of nineteenth century society. It discusses gender roles in traditional jobs and exposes men’s chauvinistic behaviour. The society’s attitude towards females compels them into accepting their current role and not striving to improve their career. Similar to the above, society assumes that all women will behave in the same way, for example, by creeping. The narrative also shows that men don’t see women as competent decision-makers. Men are more capable of making decisions than women, and this is evident because they presumably have greater brain capacities. Overall, Gilman presents the feminist agenda on the plight and social criticism of women.

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Ross Saunders is an educational blogger and professor, who has written extensively on topics such as education reform, online learning, and assessment. He has also spoken on the topic at various conferences and universities.

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