Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s eloquent work The Yellow Wallpaper makes a brave attempt to answer this question. According to the critic Deborah Thomas, ‘men perpetrated the ideological prison that subjected and silenced women.’ (Thomas,…
institution of marriage, women seized the right to self-assertion. Reacting to oppression women revolted against the implementation of feminine gender roles.” (Thomas, Deborah) To be able to function in her role as wife and mother, a woman needs love, understanding and support. This work is an effort to throw off the shackles that bind women in many ways because of her gender.
Christopher Marlowe’s poem The Passionate Shepherd to His Love, deals with a shepherd who only wants his woman to come and live with him. But hidden in those loving words is an ulterior motive, quite practical in nature, although it is couched in the terms of true love, namely his “passionate need to possess the woman.” (The Passionate Shepherd to His Love / Critical Essay on “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love.”). He is not in need of her love, but usefulness. The critic, Metzger, is of the opinion that she is “reduced to a caricature ridiculously clothed in floral tributes.” She does not have even a name, an identity or a voice but “exists only in the shepherd’s plea.” In short, if you are a woman, you are simply a nonentity.
John Steinbeck’s masterly work The Chrysanthemum carries this idea further but in a different vein. Like the object of Marlowe’s lover, Elisa the central character of this story, also exists solely to play up to the male’s vanity. To function as a mother and wife, a woman needs support, appreciation and understanding, which she hardly seems to receive. The literary critic, Ernest W. Sullivan II, looks at the story from the perspective of Elisa responding as a dog. Elisa obeys her inner instincts and is submissive to the male characters in the story as a mongrel would to a male that exudes superiority. Here also the relationships are lopsided as in the foregoing works. Elisa is a lesser being because of the dictates of her gender.
Thomas Hardy’s poem The Workbox is more morbid in its implications than the rest of the stories ...
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