Controlling The Female Psyche : Assigned Gender Roles Essay

1003 Words Nov 4th, 2016 5 Pages
Controlling the Female Psyche: Assigned Gender Roles in “The Yellow Wallpaper”

“The Yellow Wallpaper,” a tale of one woman’s descent into madness, is Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s response to the male-run medical establishment and the patriarchal structure of the nineteenth-century household. Gilman’s short story is a warning to her readers about the consequences of fixed gender roles assigned by male-dominated societies: the man’s role being that of the husband and rational thinker, and the woman’s role being that of the dutiful wife who does not question her husband’s authority. In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Gilman depicts a marriage in which both the narrator and her husband are trapped in their assigned roles and are doomed because of this.
The story focuses on the narrator’s “nervous condition” as she slowly loses sense of reality, the whole time being totally misunderstood and misdiagnosed by her husband, a doctor who is unable to understand a woman’s psyche and who believes the best treatment is for her to confine herself to her room and rest. The narrator says, “If a physician of high standing, and one’s own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression—a slight hysterical tendency—what is one to do?” (3). Reading “The Yellow Wallpaper” in historical context, Jane Thrailkill points out that the nineteenth-century medical establishment did not understand how to deal with women’s mental health…

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