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A Negative Influence of Marriage, Essay Example

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In the novels by Charlotte Perkins Gillman’s “The Yellow Wall Paper”, Kate Chopins’ “The Awakening” and  Mary Wilkins Freeman’s “The Revolt of Mother” the authors present female heroines who experience nervous breakdowns due to dissatisfaction with their marriages. Both of the stories take place in 19th century America, a time period when marriage means everything to a young woman.  The women depicted in these novels have in common a deep sense of loneliness and disappointment by the way their marriages turned out.  However, these wives defeat patriarchal culture represented in the attitude of their husbands. They find the strength and courage to stand up to their husbands by speaking the truth plainly. In short, they refuse to have their self esteem degraded by becoming passive emotional victims. In this way, these literary works can be interpreted from a feminist perspective.

In “The Yellow Wall Paper,” the unnamed female narrator feels trapped in her unhappy marriage. However, she symbolically sets herself free from her emotionally dead end marriage.  She refuses to let her husband trap her in his house and in the marriage by tearing apart the yellow wall paper. Furthermore, she believes that she actually frees herself by imagining that she helps the woman escape from whom she believes exists on the opposite side of the yellow wall paper. Other courageous female characters, Edna Pontellier, a heroine of, “The Awakening” and the Sarah Penn, the heroine of “The Revolt of Mother” also feel trapped in their marriages and seek self liberation. For example, Edna is unhappily married and seeks love in the arms of Robert Leburn. Sarah feels trapped in a loveless marriage. But she experiences an awakening, both artistically and sexual. In this manner she therefore refuses to be a victim.

The unnamed narrator of “The Yellow Wall Paper” can be considered a victim by some readers. After all, she lets her husband make decisions for her. She does not dare attempt to stand up to him. She holds her anger inside, which in turn, escalates into a depression. But there comes a day when she had had enough and cannot take it anymore. Her husband’s constant emotional abuse drives her mad and she rips off the yellow wall paper. It is this very act that is liberating for her because by doing so she really tries to set herself free. It is no accident that she imagines that there is a woman on the opposite side of the yellow wall paper that she needs to rescue; that woman is her. That woman is her mirror image: “There are things in that paper which nobody knows but me, or ever will.  Behind that outside pattern the dim shapes get clearer every day. It is always the same shape, only very numerous. And it is like a woman stooping down and creeping about behind that pattern. I don’t like it a bit. I wonder—I begin to think—I wish John would take me away from here!  This heroine leads her own secret life by making believe that there is another woman behind the yellow wall paper. Symbolically, she is really looking at her own mirror image because she herself feels trapped just like the woman that she imagines exists behind the wall. That woman, too, needs to be rescued just like she does.  She needs to be rescued because she cannot take it anymore. She wishes that John “would take her away from there”.  Thus, she is an example of a woman who dares to stand up to overpowering patriarchal rule.

In conclusion, the heroines of the above mentioned novels are what can be referred to as pre-feminist. These young women learn an important lesson. They learn that being proactive is much more rewarding than being totally passive.  The heroine of “The Yellow Wall Paper” takes action in a symbolic way, by tearing apart the boundaries that she thinks are holding her down. Ironically, it turns out to be beneficial that her husband imprisons her in the lonely room because it enables her to look at her own dreary life face to face.

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