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Male Domination and Madness - Essay Example

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What does a creative, intelligent woman do when she is living in an oppressive male-dominated society If she is fortunate enough to have strong, positive female role models, she will rise above the situation and may become one of the greatest feminist leaders ever known…
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Male Domination and Madness
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Male Domination and Madness

Charlotte Perkins Gilman was born in Hartford, Connecticut on July 3, 1860 (Gilman 644). Being an extraordinarily intelligent woman in a male-dominated world, she soon became aware of the gross social injustices that were being perpetrated against woman, so she began to develop her own views and writings on women's suffrage (644). When she was 24, she married Charles Stetson and almost immediately became pregnant. Shortly after this, she became very depressed. Her depression stemmed from the internal pressures she felt to continue her career as a writer and the external pressures forced on her by a society that told her she should devote herself to her family, restraining her intellectual pursuits to two hours a day (Gilman 657).
In 1887, under the advice of a male nerve specialist, Silas Weir Mitchell (Gilman 657), Gilman underwent a "rest cure." The conditions of this bed-rest cure were that she was not allowed to write at all, and that she should try to live as domestic a life as possible, with very little contact with family and friends (657). For three months, Gilman followed this advice, until she could not stand it any longer. In her own words, she "came so near the border of utter mental ruin that I could see over" (657). Something had to be done, and Gilman, after some encouragement from a female writer friend, decided it was time to go back to work (657). It was at this time that she wrote "The Yellow Wallpaper" in order to "save people from being crazy" (658). At least one woman was saved from this end by reading the tale, to Gilman's knowledge, and possibly many more were positively affected by it, since she sent the story to her own specialist, and found out later that he changed his medical treatments because of it (658).
Gilman's life-changing efforts are to be applauded, but is disappointing that she could not do the same for her heroine in "The Yellow Wallpaper." In this story, Gilman
details what can happen when a woman is forced to succumb to the rest cure, thus being relegated to her pitiable position in society as a prisoner of the domestic sphere. The story is ultimately about female subordination and escape. Gilman's heroine is trapped in
the home (supposedly for her own good), she is trapped in a female body in a society that ignores women and treats them as children, and she is trapped in the text of her secret journal, which is the only escape she can find from the boredom that plagues her naturally active mind.
This woman is a prisoner in her own house. She is totally dominated by her husband. Her feelings are completely discounted as invalid. As she puts:
I don't like our room one bit. I wanted one downstairs Bust John would not hear of it. He said there was only one window and not room for two beds, and no near room for him if he took another. He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction (Gilman 647).
Sadly, the heroine misinterprets his husband's total control for caring, not even seeming to notice the other signs of captivity: the bars on the window; the gate at the top of the stairs, steel rings on the wall; and the nailed-down bed.
The heroine is also trapped by the notions of 19th Century American society that dictate a woman's only function in life is to bear and raise children. Her husband, John, completely agrees with this estimation of her place in society, and he does not want her to have anything to ... Read More
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