What does the story "The Yellow Wallpaper"suggest about middle-class women's place and role(s) in this society?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Yellow Wallpaper" suggests that the role of middle class women within society can basically be delineated by the male in charge of the household; if the husband wishes and provides for it, the woman of the household will unequivocally be dependent, subservient, obedient, nurturing, and passive.

All of these are traits are quite visible in the unnamed main character, however, her actions and expressions expose that, beneath her kind manners and subservient behavior, there is a vibrant and even humorous woman that, like the "woman" in the wallpaper, wishes to come out and be herself.

This fact is evident in the voice of the story. The narrator's voice is far from flat and colorless, nor does she tell her story in a tragic mood. Instead, she provides much insight as to how she feels, what upsets her, what bores her, and how much she disagrees with the current state of things.

John ... has no patience with faith, an intense horror of superstition...-- perhaps (I would not say it to a living soul, of course, but this is dead paper and a great relief to my mind) perhaps that is one reason I do not get well faster.You see he does not believe I am sick! And what can one do?

She also agrees with the fact that she is made to obey, and to follow the directions of her husband, despite of what she feels that she wants and needs. She, herself, admits that her role is to remain obedient and passive and to let her husband take complete control of her situation.

I sometimes fancy that in my condition if I had less opposition and more society and stimulus -- but John says the very worst thing I can do is to think about my condition, and I confess it always makes me feel bad.

Therefore, as she begins to spiral down into what could very well be a moment of psychosis, she begins to identify with a shape on the pattern of the yellow wallpaper that immediately represents to her a woman begging to be liberated. This is what leads her in the end to tear up the paper. This all is an allegory to the subjugation and pressure that our main character feels; she is entirely dependant on others, because that is her role and duty within society.


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The Yellow Wallpaper

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