Essay on Women Oppression in the Patriarchal System
Number of words: 622
In the poetic short story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Charlotte Perkins Gilman uses yellow paper as a symbol to indicate how men oppress women in a patriarchal society. Two features are explicit in the yellow wallpaper symbol; that is, the former represents a color and the latter a shape. In the story, the narrator dislikes the yellow color, describing it as “the strangest yellow, that wallpaper,” and it makes her think of “bad yellow things” (Mary). She is oppressed by this color. The wallpaper’s shape also deprives her the freedom, barring her from operating freely. In this analysis, the narrator is explicitly uncomfortable with her situation in the house. The symbolic analysis of the yellow paper in Gilman’s poetic short story reveals that men perceive women as people who are fragile and lack intellectual capacity, and because of these views, they should subordinate them, which is a characteristic of patriarchal society.
The element of women’s oppression is evident in the story. The narrator is being treated unjustly, as Gilman portrays the narrator’s husband as a person who typically stifles her in different ways, discouraging her from engaging in writing activities. At an instant, the narrator talks about John, a character in the story, whom she feels does not know her suffering extent, yet “he knows there is no reason to suffer, and that satisfies him” (Mary). This excerpt reveals that patriarchal society do not know how much women suffer due to masculinity tendency mandating women to subordinate men. Moreover, men are regarded highly more than women, and in that viewpoint, societal culture disregards women’s passions and strengths. Using this writing approach, Gilman intended to let society understand how women suffer silently because of men’s perceptions.
Gender inequality is imminent in this story, as the yellow color symbolizes. Gilman portrayed this point by detailing how the narrator was systematically discriminated. She could be barred from acting freely and doing activities of her own choice. In addition, women have to prepare for torture, as they could be punished anytime. Torture can appear in different forms. The narrator denoted that her husband, John, “meant to repaper the room,” however, after sometimes, John thought that the narrator was allowing medication get better of her, “and nothing was worse for a nervous patient than to give way to such fancies” (Mary). This excerpt reveals a woman without the authority to decide what is best for her. Instead, she has to depend on her husband to make that choice, a decision she feels is detrimental to her. However, she cannot object to it because that is how society operates.
Miscommunication is characteristic of a family that overlooks women’s roles. Even though the narrator does not get better amidst John’s medication, John insists on administering the same drugs. Meaning, the narrator is not allowed to express her opinion in the family. Patriarchal society treats a man’s decision as final and that a woman should follow them as is. Moreover, the husband is portrayed as a busy person, handling errands outside the home, while the wife assumes all domestic chores. Different activities cause different thinking dimensions and ineffective communication between the wife and husband.
In conclusion, Gilman’s story reveals men as people who perceive women as intellectually incapable and fragile. This view is a characteristic of a patriarchal society. Gilman covered specific areas, such as gender inequality, women’s oppression, and family miscommunication. Therefore, the author, Gilman, believes society can revert how they think about women, as this change can prompt a desirable outcome.
Mary K. DeShazer, ed. The Longman Anthology of Women’s Literature. Longman Publishing Group, 2000.