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How far can a feminist reading be applied to The Yellow Wallpaper?

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Introduction

How far can a feminist reading be applied to The Yellow Wallpaper? Feminist criticism of literature reflects the period, social status and equality of women involving ?a thorough examination of gender roles? how they are culturally constructed?[1] . These roles, ?culturally assigned to countless generations of women?1 generally connoted them ?naturally timid? sweet? intuitive? dependent? self-pitying? or ?how the speaker wants to see them?1. The Yellow Wallpaper refutes the prevailing nineteenth century perception of the subordinated, helpless woman whilst indirectly upholding the prevalent ?social and cultural domination by males.?1 Conversely, authoritarian masculinity was traditionally represented through ?strength, rationality, stoicism, and self-reliance?1. These attitudes encouraged ?gendered stereotyping? with ?helplessness and dependence? endearing and admirable?1 representing women?s social roles. Bertens? structuralist term ?binary opposition?1 attracted positive, pragmatic meaning for masculinity but negative connotations for feminine representation. Charlotte Perkins Gilman?s innovative autobiographical short story, The Yellow Wallpaper (1892) invites a feminist reading: Gilman, the literal protagonist, discusses her personal subordination within marriage. Her linear stream of consciousness narrative contrasts the microcosm of the woman?s mind with the macrocosm of a patriarchal society with ?critical social pressures imposed on women?[2]: Gilman?s story provides a feminist and historical perspective into psychiatric health, sexual and social oppression and limited female personal freedoms within late nineteenth century male dominated society. ...read more.

Middle

For Gilman, work was ?joy? growth? service, without which one is a pauper and a parasite? indicating marginalisation.9 Disadvantaged and misunderstood as a writer, the repressive specialist rest cure pushed Gilman, ?near the borderline of utter mental ruin?9 culminating in her passionate self-expression within The Yellow Wallpaper. The realistic and figurative language, showed Gilman?s battle against confinement and gender stereotyping, ultimately altering neurasthenic treatment ironically challenging sexist prejudices. This was Gilman?s context of production: her feminist approach exposed the Boston physician?s biased attitudes, labelling such literature as ?deadly peril?9. When Gilman?s brother agreed with her husband, Gilman responded by using anaphora and a rhetorical question: ?personally I disagree? personally I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good. But what is one to do??9 Although Barry acknowledges that the 1960?s women?s movement initiated ?feminist? literacy criticism of today?7, the feminist movement commenced during the American Revolution (1775-83), when the President?s wife Abigail Adams, ironically commented concerning the draft Declaration of Independence that ?whilst? proclaiming peace and good will to men, emancipating all nations, you insist upon retaining absolute power over your wives?4. Abigail Adams subsequently remarked upon on women?s equality: ??to have heroes, statesmen and philosophers, we should have learned women? warning against ?depriving women of access to education?4. ...read more.

Conclusion

The story concludes with the question and answer technique: ?now why should that man have fainted? But he did.? John?s role reversal, necessitating Gilman?s need ?to creep over him every time!?6 proleptically symbolises women?s struggle for social justice. The female protagonist overcomes her husband?s biased attitudes, by shocking him into fainting. Therefore a feminist reading is applicable to Gilman?s allegorical story. In ?The Athenaeum? a feminist was defined as a woman with ?the capacity of fighting her way back to independence?.[12] Gilman?s figurative account of female empowerment subsequently freed women from sexism and stifling misinterpretation. Word Count ? 1503 ________________ [1] Bertens, H. (2001) Literacy Theory: The Basic, (The Politics of Class: Marxism), Abingdon: Routledge [2] Elaine Hedges, Afterword, (Feminist Press edition), (1973) [3] C.P. Gilman, Introduction by Maggie O?Farrell, The Yellow Wallpaper 2009, Virago Press [4]4 C. Jenainati. & J. Groves Introducing Feminism: A graphic guide, 2007, Allen [5] K. Millet, Sexual Politics, 2000, First Illinois [6] C.P. Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper 2009, Virago [7] Barry P, Beginning Theory, 2nd Edition, 2002, Manchester University Press [8] C. Bronte, Jane Eyre, 1999, Wordsworth Classics [9] C.P. Gilman, Why I wrote The Yellow Wallpaper, The Forerunner, 1913 [10] S. Canwell & J. Ogborn, AQA English Literature A, 2008, Nelson Thornes [11] A Handbook to Literature, C. Hugh Holman and William Harman Macmillan, 1992 (1895) [12] C. Jenainati. & J. Groves Introducing Feminism: A graphic guide: The Athenaeum (1857) 2007, Allen ...read more.

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