The theme of isolation also features prominently in Charlotte Perkins Gilmans A Yellow Wallpaper. The main protagonist is isolated from the rest of the world due to her mental ailments. As a woman, she had to deal with the challenges of oppression and suppression not only because of her depression, but also because of the fact that she was a woman. John, her husband, who is also the medical doctor taking care of her, thought of isolation and rest cure as the only possible solutions for his wifes condition. While he may have been caring and committed to helping his wife, his decision illustrates the role and place of women in the society at the time. John made the decision to seclude his wife on his own motion without considering her own views. The woman was completely out of the picture when it came to decision making regardless of the fact that the decisions had several implications on their wellbeing.
There are some similarities and differences in the manner in which the stories tackle the issue of isolation. For instance, in both stories, the decision to isolate the women from the rest of the world was made by the men without considering the interests and views of the women. In A Rose for Emily, Emilys father, Mr. Grierson always treated her as a child irrespective of her age. By the time of Mr. Griersons death, Emily was 30 years old. However, she could not be allowed to interact and mingle freely with her townsmen, choose her suitor, or even determine what to do with her life. This was in sharp contrast to what would happen to men of her age in the society. Therefore, by isolating his daughter from the community, Mr. Grierson remained in control of her life and determined for her destiny. This, to some extent made Emily mentally weak as evidenced by her reaction to her fathers death. She refused to accept the death of her father and could not allow her fathers body to be buried. Besides being 30 years old, Emily could not handle the thought if making it bon her own without the direction of her father who was now gone. Therefore, isolation of women as illustrated in them case of Emily was meant to bring them under the control of men and make them powerless and always reliant on men. Her community expressed bewilderment at her position in the society, as the narrator posits that, So when she got to be thirty and was still single, we were not pleased exactly, but vindicated; even with insanity in the family she wouldn't have turned down all of her chances if they had really materialized (Faulkner 41)."
Similarly, in The Yellow Wallpaper, the decision to isolate the protagonist was made by her husband on the basis of her medical condition. This is quite interesting for a medical perspective because the mental problem that she was suffering was indeed occasioned by the challenges she had encountered in her marriage to her husband. Therefore, if her husband would have been interested in helping her to recover, he would have concentrated on curing the problem rather than focusing on the symptoms. Therefore, it appears that the isolation was not aimed at helping her, but rather was used as an opportunity to assert the control of the man in her life. While in seclusion, she was only allowed to interact with one more person, Jane, her sister in law. She was in a far-off place where she could not interact with other people because the home was disserted. Thus, she could not be lively. She felt held up in the house and could to express herself freely as she kept on staring at the yellow wallpaper waiting for her freedom. She disproves the decision to be placed in isolation, but consents to it due to her helpless situation as she states that I sometimes fancy that in my condition if I had less opposition and more society and stimulusbut John says the very worst thing I can do is think about my condition, and I confess it always makes me feel bad. So, I will let it alone and talk about the house (Gilman 653).
The other important theme that features prominently across the two books is the role and place of women in the society. Women has a very limited role in marriage in the society within which the two stories were based. For instance, women had limited participation decision making because their role was mainly to comply and accept the decisions from their male figures without questioning. This has been vividly illustrated in A Rose for Emily, where Emily could not be allowed to make a choice on who to marry. Emilys father, Mr. Grierson did not want his daughter to get married despite there being suitors available. Emily, herself, would have liked to marry as she had fallen in love with Homer Baron. The fat that Mr. Grierson could not allow Emily to choose who and when to marry illustrates the place of women in the institution of marriage. The decision on who and when to marry was always made by the men irrespective of the emotions and desires of the women. Emilys townsmen sympathized with her position in the society as she could not make any decision about her personal life. This is evidence when the narrator indicates that, "We did not say she was crazy then. We believed she had to do that. We remembered all the young men her father had driven away, and we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will (Faulkner 34)."
Similarly, in The Yellow Wallpaper, the protagonist has limited participation in the marriage. Despite having been married to a medical doctor, a fairly learned and respectful man, she could not have any major role in her marriage apart from being submissive and complying with her mans decisions. When it is discovered that she has postpartum depression, the husband makes the decision to have her isolated in order to recover. However, she is not asked to give any opinion about the decision. This decision is also complicated in a sense because of the fact that her husband is a medical doctor. Therefore, it is unclear whether he made the decision from a professional point of view or whether the decision was made the choice as a husband who meant well for her wife. Either way, such a perception would only had been clarified if the woman had a role in questioning and contributing to the decision-making process. Therefore, the role of women in marriage in the societies represented in the two stories is almost powerless and more of a background role. The protagonist questions the role of women in the society through her thought that, I dont like to look out of the windows eventhere are so many of those creeping women, and they creep so fast. I wonder if they all come out of that wall-paper as I did? (Gilman 652)
The other important issue brought up in both texts is the problem of mental health. When women are subjugated and oppressed in the society, it becomes evident that this not only wears them down physically, but also mentally. Therefore, women have to deal with mental issues besides dealing with the subjugation they have been exposed to from their male figures. For example, in A Rose for Emily, Emily becomes the epitome of mental suffering as evidenced after the death of her father. Having relied so heavily on her fathers direction and instructions throughout her life, Emily becomes completely devastated after his death. The world seems to shutter al over sudden as she sees not future for her. The death of her father affects her mentally since she cannot seem to handle it well when she rejects to have his body buried. Furthermore, her mental problems are also evidenced after her death with the discovery of the body of Homer Baron, her lover, in her house. It seems she murdered Homer Baron after she discovered that she could not be allowed to marry him despite her feelings for him. This shows that she could not manage her emotions effectively. This problem is largely attributable to her upbringing. She grew up in an environment where she was never in control of anything around her, including her own life. Her father made the crucial decisions for her and basically managed her life. The role of her father in her life and it difficult for Emily to become strong mentally and emotionally to be in apposition where she could take up her own responsibilities in life.
In the same way, the problem of mental health has been widely exposed in The Yellow Wallpaper. After delivering her baby, the protagonist falls into postpartum depression, a mental problem that affects most women after giving birth. However, in her case, the depression is compounded by several other issues that she has been facing in her marriage such as continuously playing second fiddle to her husband in the relationship. Therefore, depression, as a mental problem, has only been used to highlight the challenges that she has been going through as a woman in a male dominated world. When her husband makes the decision to isolate her from the world, she becomes more devastated and depressed as opposed to this being a curative process, she longs for her day to see the world once more. Therefore, the two stories illustrate the role of men in contributing to the mental problems that women encounter in life. For insrtance, Jennie was forbidden from enjoying her life and participating in other socioeconomic activities, but it seems she had limited options available as she states that, So I take phosphates or phosphiteswhichever it is, and tonics, and journeys, and air, and exercise, and am absolutely forbidden to work until I am well again. Personally, I disagree with their ideas . . . (Gilman 649)
In conclusion, the road of emancipation for women has been a long and a tough one over the years. This journey has bene covered and discussed in various texts in contemporary literature. Charlotte Perkins Gilmans The Yellow Wall Paper" and William Faulknes "A Rose for Emily" are excellent manifestations of the challenges that women have gone through over the years in a society that is largely dominated by men. The two stories illustrate different kinds of challenges that portray the role and place of women in society and particularly in marriage as that of being considered a lesser sex. Therefore, we can see how problems from that time were used topics of the stories, including mental illness, the treatment of women in marriage and medicine, and the importance of emotional expression and free thought. In both we can see how the story to talk about these topics such as feminism and the truth about mental health. The main idea that goes on though both stories is how we can see men play an oppressive gender role in the lives of Emily and Jane making them both lose their reasoning and turn wild.
Faulkner, William. A Rose for Emily. 1930. Print.
Gilman, Charlotte P. The Yellow Wall Paper. Boston: Small, Maynard, 1899. Print.
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