3 Oct. 2013
Roles of Women in Marriage: Traditional and Modern
Bobbi Ann Mason’s “Shiloh” and Charlotte Perkins Gillman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” both contain the underlying theme of the roles of women in marriage. Marriage roles have changed significantly in the past fifty years. Prior to the late twentieth century, men were the sole breadwinners and women were expected to be submissive housewives. However, while men still work in today’s society, many women are now members of the working class as well. “The Yellow Wallpaper” presents a traditional position on marriage, while “Shiloh” takes a more modern approach, if not a switch, to the role of women in the marriage relationship.
In the short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the role of the woman is right in line with the traditional state of marriage. The narrator is suffering from an illness that remains undisclosed to the reader, but it appears to be a state of deep depression. Her husband, John, is a doctor and is taking care of her. However, he does not believe that she is truly ill. He confines his wife to the grounds of their estate and does not permit her to leave. All the while, John comes and goes as he pleases. He also forces her to sleep in the nursery against her will. She begs him to allow her to have one of the downstairs bedrooms, but he refuses. Since the nursery has barred windows and rings upon the wall, it is eerily similar to a prison cell. John is also responsible for confining his wife to her own mind. He does not permit her to exercise, or go outdoors, or even to write, and this begins to wear on her mental state of mind. She begins to see a woman in the yellow wallpaper in the nursery. This woman represents the narrator herself, being trapped within her own mind. She eventually tears the wallpaper from the walls in an effort to escape from the imprisonment of her own mind and also from her room. “I’ve got out at last, said I, in spite of you and Jane. And I’ve pulled...
Cited: Mason, Bobbi A. “Shiloh.” 1982. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. 12th ed. Ed. X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. Boston: Pearson, 2013. 616-625.
Gilman, Charlotte P. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” 1892. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. 12th ed. Ed. X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. Boston: Pearson, 2013. 473-483.
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