The them. This essay will deal with two short

The
theme of misoginy in ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ and ‘A Jury of Her Peers’

 

            The term ‘misoginy’ suggests
contempt, dislike, and discrimination against women. It stems from the fact
that the two sexes have not actually been equal in their rights for a very
lengthy period of time, though it was somewhat resolved in the twentieth
century. Unjust treatment of women and their confinement to gender roles previously
assigned by the society have naturally sowed the seeds of discontent among them
and many a woman actually tried to combat that in various ways, writing being
one of them. This essay will deal with two short stories in particular, written
by two female writers and the overarching themes of not only misoginy, but
discrimination in itself, as well as means with which women countered them, (or
rather, dealt with them) and the impact it had on them.

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            Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the writer
of the short story ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ to this day remains a renowned
feministic writer, her work ranging from short stories and novels to poetry. The
basis of her writing and worldview likely lies in her rough childhood – her
father left when she was a small child, and her mother’s increasingly bad
financial status led to them largely depending on relatives, which was how Perkins
Gilman got to know her fauther’s aunts – educated women who were also known to
write. Her interest in literature was what eventually inspired her to become a
writer herself. Perkins GIlman was also in no small influenced by Kate Chopin,
writer of the highly acclaimed ‘Désirée’s Baby’. Later on, Perkins Gilman got
married and gave birth, though it led to a severe case of depression – this was
what actually drove her to write the short story entitled ‘The Yellow
Wallpaper’. Sensibly considered an autobiographical story (or
semi-autobiographical, rather), ‘The Yellow Paper’ still remains a relevant and
largely important piece of feminist literature, and Perkins’ experience allowed
her to truthfully convey the ordeal she went through. It should be noted that
the story being narrated in first person also strongly alludes to the
autobiographical elements present within it. The narrator of the story remains
unnamed through it, meaning that she possibly represents all women, therefore
sending a message. Also suffering from post-partum depression, just like
Perkins herself did, the female narrator of the story is made by her husband to
undergo a rest cure – a known treatment for mental illnesses that was actually
commonly practiced. The procedure involves confining the ‘afflicted’ to a room,
and the narrator is unable to see her newborn, further fueling her negative
thoughts. The theme of misoginy or mistreatment in general is present in her
husband John who doesn’t validate her opinions regarding the situation,
constantly trying to reassure her. Though he is intent on helping to cure his
wife, John stubbornly dismisses her concerns, but she places her full trust in
him, his capabilites and knowledge as a physician. Despite the not-so-evident
discrimination against his wife, she still admires and almost idolizes John,
appearing all but brainwashed. The quotes „He is so careful and loving, and
hardly lets me stir without special direction.” and „John says the very worst
thing I can do is to think about my condition.” essentially imply the husband
taking away (or controlling, rather) the narrator’s free will. The room the
narrator is placed in, albeit spacious, could well stand for a jail cell, and
it being a former nursery alludes to her having a child’s treatment. The
symbolism of the yellow color of its wallpaper has more than one possible
interpretation: yellow stands for hope, hope for recovery, creativity (the
author’s creativity), but on the other end it represents madness which the main
character is slowly but steadily descending into. Other than that, the
wallpaper itself contains the imaginary women that keeps appearing to her: she
is shackled and oppressed, wanting badly to break free. One immediately starts
drawing parallels between the mysterious woman and the narrator, and later it
is actually established that they are one and the same – the former
subconsciously struggling to break away from the way of life she didn’t choose
(even though she accepts it), from the way her husband contains her self-growth.
That being said, the wallpaper itself might actually stand for all the ties
that bind her, the same ties that inevitably lead to her insanity. The release
of the woman behind the wallpaper actually symbolizes the narrator’s release
from the restraints her life (and her husband) had put on her. Continously
leading such a life where one has very little to no influence on the choices
they make inevitably leads to them losing their sanity. The quote “I’ve
got out at last… in spite of you… and I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so
you can’t put me back!” further suggests that the imaginary woman behind
the wallpaper in fact was her consciousness, or what had become of it
due to the toll isolation have inflicted on her mind, not to mention keeping
her creativity down.

            Susan Glaspell, another iconic
feminist writer in American literature and a known playwright, author of the
short story ‘A Jury of Her Peers’ wrote about themes akin to those that Perkins
Gilman’s work is known for. Said short story, however, is actually completely
based on ‘Trifles’, a play that she wrote; it is, in a way, an adaptation of
the play to fit the form of a short story. Just like Perkins Gilman’s ‘The
Yellow Wallpaper’, ‘A Jury of Her Peers’ deals with the issues of mistreatment
of women, discrimination, assigned gender roles and the effect isolation (both
physical and emotional) has on one’s mind.