Female inferiority to male gender is a fact that has been on the minds of women for many years. To date most women still believe that certain roles in the society is men’s responsibility and they do not bother themselves with such.
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the Awakening by Kate Chopin and the Revolt of Mother by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman are three books whose publication took place at a time when the role of women in the society was almost insignificant. The stories in these publications portray the voices of women as trivial and show that they do not deserve the manner in which men handle them. These women take it upon themselves to overcome the culture of discrimination to the level of being in control of certain situations in their lives (Perkins, Perkins 205-6).
Women in the 19th Century
In the 19th century, women believed that they are bound to listen to their husbands and do whatever is required of them without complain. In “The Revolt of Mother”, Sarah initially gives in to Adoniram’s initiative to construct a burn at the same place he promised to build a house for her. This she does because she believes that it is her duty to respect her husband without protest. She decides to communicate what she feels to her husband who is not interested to talk about the matter. Sarah then decides to drop the matter because she knows that it is not her place to go against the wishes of her husband. In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper, John assumes overall authority over his wife and strongly believes that he understands what is good for her. She on the other hand goes ahead to respect the wishes of her husband.
He knows that the decisions he is making are for her well-being and does not give thought to her opinion. This inferiority complex portrayed in Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening”. Even though Edna had desires of her own, she initially did not give much thought to leaving her comfortable life with her caring family to explore them. These wives at some point explored the need to be independent and in control of their desires and express their opinion without fear. These three stories bring out the new strength that the women in the 19th century found in themselves to break away from oppression and speak their voice. In “The Awakening”, Edna finds liberation in confronting her sexuality and feelings. She tackles her emotions without being afraid like she used to be.
In “The Yellow Wallpaper”, the narrator takes control by ignoring her fainted husband, refers to her as “that man”, and even finds it annoying to “creep over him” as she moves on the wall. “The Revolt of Mother” also emphasizes on the need of the woman to stand out from being the man’s household slave. Sarah Penn rebels her husband’s authority over the farm for the first time after forty years. Her actions to rebel is not taken well be their neighbors who think that she is insane (Perkins, Perkins 222).
Towards the end of the 19th century, the man had authority over all the proceeds of the home and his family. The woman’s role was to do all household chores and respect her husband.
Women were discriminated by their employers. Employers hired them for domestic jobs only and in some situations paid less money doing the same work as men. By the time the century ended, women still could not vote in elections throughout the country.
This is the period in American history that saw the rise of activists for women’s rights. The women achieved their goal as evident in America today. They comfortably express their feelings and are allowed to vote in national elections. The will that the female gender had to overcome these challenges came out long after they are married. The boredom in their married lives and the need for independence and free will gave them the strength to break free (Newcomer 138).
Newcomer, Alphonso G.
American literature. New York: General book, 2009. Perkins, George and Perkins, Barbara.
The American Tradition in Literature, Volume II, 12th Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007.