Women’s in a room and prohibited to write or

Women’s Roles

centuries, women have been considered less superior than men; men have more freedom,
privilege, and rights. Around the late 1800s when Perkins Gilman wrote “The
Yellow Wallpaper” and Kate Chopin wrote “The Story of an Hour, women were
considered “dead in the eyes of the law (Smiltneek).” Men believed
that the women were weak and could not make her own decisions, and believed men
were powerful and brave. Woman were controlled by the men in the lives, first
by the men in their families and then by their husbands. Once a woman, was married she gave up
many of her civil and property rights because she now belonged to her husband; “married women generally were not allowed to make
contracts, devise wills, take part in other legal transactions, or control any
wages they might earn” (Smiltneek).

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In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The
Yellow Wallpaper,” women are belittled and not considered as equal.  A young doctor’s wife is forced to undergo
unnecessary treatment for an “illness” that she does not have. In order to
treat her illness, her husband believes she must be kept in a room and prohibited
to write or work. She believes the room she is kept in used to be a nursery;
the window has bars on it and of course yellow wallpaper on the walls. Throughout
the story, the narrator tries to set a woman in the wallpaper free by using a
rope. Later in the story, readers learn that the rope is actually tied around her
body and the woman in the wallpaper is a reflection of herself.

Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” is also an example of how men are controlling in
a relationship. Readers learn in the beginning that Mrs. Mallard a widow lost
her husband in a train crash. After she finds that her husband has died, he
spends time in her bedroom alone and grieves. Then she imagines the years ahead
and how she is now set free; “free!
Body and soul free!” (Chopin 317). She is now very excited for her independence that she did not have when
her husband was alive. Soon after her husband walks in the door, and she dies
from heart disease because of joy. However, after reflecting, Mrs. Mallard’s
death is from realizing that her freedom is going to be taken away since her husband
is still alive.

In the short stories “The Yellow
Wallpaper” and “The Story of an Hour” both of the women have controlling
husbands and want to have freedom.  Although the women in the stories’ situations
are different and react differently once they realize their place, the authors
use similar themes. In both stories, the women are trying to escape from
stereotypic roles during their time period. Both stories make a point that
women sometimes do not realize that their husbands are controlling, but when
they do they will try to escape from it. However, in “The Yellow Paper” the
narrator tries to set an imprisoned woman free in the wallpaper which is a
reflection of herself because both are trapped and wants to escape. The
wallpaper symbolizes things in her life holding her back such as her husband,
and she states that the woman in the wallpaper would be happy if she was
removed.  This theme is somewhat similar
to “The Story if an Hour” when Mrs. Mallard finds out that her husband is dead
and she realizes that now she can live her life for who she is.

In a review of “The Yellow Wallpaper”
by Omar Mukhtar, he explains Charlotte Perkins Gilman writes about her personal
experience with issues of women’s roles, based on her marriage resulting in a
mental breakdown. Then it goes into detail about her first marriage with
Charles Walter Stetson, soon after marrying she began suffering from
depression. She received treatment from Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell called a “rest
cure,” and it consists of “extensive bed rest…was fed bath and massaged”
(Mukhtar). A month later
she started doing well and was sent home but she was not allowed to “keep her child with her at all times, lie down for one
hour after each meal, and to never touch a pen, brush, or pencil for the rest
of her life” (Mukhtar). Soon
after her depression returned and she separated from her husband. This is
somewhat similar to the narrator when she gradually became insane from her
treatment. “She later lamented, ‘It was not a choice between going and staying,
but between going, sane, and staying, insane’ (Mukhtar).” After she divorced she wrote “The Yellow Paper” as
an example of how the “rest cure” during her time period drew her insane. According
to Gilman, the story was not supposed to be horror rather as a warning of what
the “rest cure” could do to mentally unstable people (Mukhtar).

After searching
it is much easier to see how the women in the stories felt trapped because once
they were married the rights were taken away. The two women were both trying to
escape from stereotypic roles in their time period. Around their time period, men
were superior to women, was the head of the household and had a better
education. From birth, men had been stereotyped to be in control of their
families. Since they were pressured into these type of roles, they treated
woman harshly when they did not follow their gender role in their time period. Socially women were also considered the weaker sex, and
some women would compare their rights to slaves. Women were limited by whatever
decisions their husbands made because a “married woman’s legal existence was incorporated
into that of her husband” (Smiltneek).