Themes and message

The condition of women in marriage and society

The dominant theme of the short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is related to the condition of women in marriage and society. The story takes place in the 19th century, a time when women were expected to fulfil traditional gender roles. They were mothers, wives, housekeepers. Typically, they were expected to be like narrator’s sister-in-law, Jennie, tending to children and household. In the meantime, men like John were able to have a profession and enjoyed more autonomy.

Women like the female narrator, who wanted to do something else—such as writing— often faced the opposition of their families and of society. This type of oppression is conveyed through the relationship the narrator has with John and her sister-in-law.

The narrator is a submissive woman, always acting according to her husband’s desires: “He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction” (p. 4, ll. 36). The narrator’s situation implies that every step she takes has to be guided and approved by her husband. She is not even given the liberty to decide in which room she should sleep or what activities she should do. It is clear that she has no say in what concerns her marriage or her house. The only form of cont...

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