Audience: Women who are controlled by men.
Purpose: To show how women were treated during this time period.
“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and “A Jury of Her Peers” by Susan Glaspell reflected the time period where men dominated women. Over the years the roles that men and women play in society have been changed tremendously. It used to be that women were solely confined to house work, cooking, and taking care of their children. The men in most families were considered to be the winners in the household. In “A Jury of Her Peers” and “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the author’s symbolism and imagery to inform in conveying the place of women in society, and their struggle with gender inequality In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” a couple had moved into a house to relieve her sickness that her husband had diagnosed. The woman is not named because it is directed to all women and not just one. Her husband is a physician and in the story she praises him dearly. She writes, “He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction.” It shows that she speaks of his total control over her without meaning to and how she has no choices whatsoever. This control is perhaps so fixed in our main character that it is even seen in her secret writing; “John says the very worst thing I can do is to think about my condition…so I will Vu 2
let it alone and talk about the house.” Her husband states, “We came here solely on my account, that I was to have perfect rest and all the air I could get. Your exercise depends on your strength, my dear and your food somewhat on your appetite; but air you can absorb all the time. So we took the nursery at the top of the house,” which he suggests that she gets enormous amounts of bed rest and no human interaction at all. He chooses a prison-like room in which the woman describes it as,” a big, airy room, the whole floor nearly, with windows that look all ways, and air and sunshine galore. It was nursery first and then playroom and gymnasium, I should judge; for the windows are barred for little children, and there are rings and things in the walls.” The room in which she stayed in shows us that she is treated as a child.
The yellow wallpaper reflects what the main character is really going through and feeling and the woman that stirs and creeps within the wall is literally herself which is found out when the housekeeper mentions that “the paper stained everything it touched, that she had found yellow smooches on all my clothes and John’s, and she wished we would be more careful!” She wants to tear the confining wallpaper down that holds this imaginary woman in just as she wants to tear the confining way of life her husband has chosen for her. In the end, the main character locks herself in the yellow room to finally tear all of the wallpaper down so that the woman can never be put back and imprisoned forever. Her husband ends up fainting and the main character “kept on creeping just the same, but I looked at him over my shoulder.” This madness seems without reason, but it is a long and overdue release of restrictions that her husband had forced upon her for so long, much like the limitation that all of society had on women for so long. Gilman describes the feelings that women had in her time and what could very well happen if women were to be kept quiet and reserved to only live as a man saw in good health.
In the last 1800’s, men were the ones that had a voice and control over the family. In this story, Mrs. Wright kills her husband for herself and for unequal of freedom. The author favors women in this story because she sees the lack of freedom for women in the society. On the other hand, men were the bad characters in the story because Glaspell wants to show the readers that men should not have all the control. In “A Jury of Her Peers”, Susan Glaspell shows the conflict between men and women and the favoritism between them.
Glaspell illustrates how this highly stereotypical role can create oppression for women and also bring harm to men as well. Character names are very important in A Jury of her Peers. The two characters, John and Minnie Wright, are the focus of the story. The name Minnie has significant symbolism. Minnie is derived from mini or minimized, which was very descriptive of her oppressed relationship with John and also the male insensitivity toward most women in society. Woman taking their husband’s last names is also very significant in the story. The women in the story are not given first names, and are referred to only as Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters. The role that society has cast upon them is defined by their husbands. Mrs. Peters, who is married to the sheriff, is viewed in those terms.
Mr. Peter, the county attorney, says “for that matter a sheriff’s wife is married to the law” She reinforces that identity until she is faced with the brutality of what John Wright did to Minnie. She says “I know what stillness is. The law has got to punish Crime, Mrs. Hale.” The difference is she is talking about the crime committed against Minnie, not the murder of John by Minnie. The Rocking chair is another important symbol in the story. The chair symbolizes the absent Minnie Wright. The rocking chair “was dingy, with wooden rungs up the back, and the Vu 4
middle rung was gone, and the chair sagged to one side” which was not anything like Mrs. Hale used to remember it being. Mrs. Hale also speaks of Minnie Foster, Foster being her maiden name, “I wish you’d seen Minnie Foster when she wore a white dress with blue ribbons and stood up there in the choir and sang. Mrs. Hale then says “how-she- did-change.” The rocking chair had depreciated over the years just like Minnie Foster, but Minnie Foster’s change was due to John’s abuse which denied her individuality and imprisoned her in a stereotype that was mentally debilitating. This ultimately led Minnie to kill John and escape the abuse.
Other significant symbols in the story are the bird and the birdcage. Mrs. Hale describes Minnie, before her marriage, as “kind of like a bird herself-real sweet and pretty, but kind of timid and fluttery.”The bird is caged just as Minnie is trapped in the abusive relationship with John. The women in both stories have been forced to band together. Their oppressive lives keep them at a low social level, constantly wearing them down mentally. Men keep these women physically and mentally confined, forcing them to take action against this painful way of life. Women are believed to be unimportant and unable to participate in some duties due to a second class citizen status, causing them to be more connected to each other and ready to seek revenge against an arrogant, male dominated society.