The Repression of Female’s Individuality in Susan Glaspell’s “A Jury of Her Peers” and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” Glaspell’s “A Jury of Her Peers” and Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” are both informative in conveying the place of women in society, and their struggle with gender inequality. Glaspell’s story appears a simple detective story, but through an extensive communication between two women, she slowly reveals the root of the conflict. Gilman’s story focuses on a woman who suffers from a depression, but what it truly examines is male dominance.
The common theme of both of these stories contributes to several similarities between them. Both of the protagonists face similar obstacles in their marriages. The first similar obstacle, Minnie Foster in “A Jury of Her Peers,” and the protagonist in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” confront is a lack of growth of self-development. A sufficient amount of description conveyed by other characters about Minnie informs readers that after marriage she becomes homebound and submissive to her husband. This suggests during the time this story was written, a woman’s only source of shelter and food was her husband’s home.
As a result, this prevents her from fulfilling her potential needs as a human. Her shabby clothes and the always hanging coat indicate how little she develops a personality of her own. Another area which indicates her arrested self-development is her role as a wife half her life. Her role does not grow as a mother, and thus a person. The inexistence of a child, location of her house in an isolated area, and no means of communication indicates she is deprived of the physiological needs.
For example, sexual activity, love, and the need to belong to a social network composed of family and friends. These are the needs by which a person faces dynamic growth. By going through different phases in life both good and bad with different people and events, multiple experiences help one to evaluate how well he or she likes or values oneself. However, Minnie goes through an unchanging phase, one single experience. This prevents the development of her self. Similarly, the main character’s life in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” is very static.
She does not and could not go anywhere outside the boundaries set by her husband. She lives on a subsistence level. She spends her time with the necessities crucial to her mental condition such as, “perfect rest and all the air,” but not crucial to a human’s growth. For example, lack of inclusion in daily chores, and most importantly the duties for her only child prevents her to take different roles and thus grow as a person. Minnie’s obstacle is also similar to the protagonist with regards to their dependence on their spouses.
Details on Minnie’s long-term endurance indicate her helpless position as a woman. Despite of the predicaments she goes through, she does not decide to divorce him. This suggests the form of justice during that time of period, the restrictive nature of rigid stereotypes, and the stark differences in perspective between men and women. Because of such socially constructed discrimination she is not able to take revenge in a legitimate way, instead under compulsion she takes an action by herself. It also indicates that she is nothing without him.
Minnie’s existence and identity solely depends on her husband because men in the story view their wives as the weaker sex. For example, if Minnie were to fight for a case other than her husband’s, then she would be able to do so only with his help. Similarly, the main character in “The Yellow Wallpaper” is seen to initially turn to her husband as someone who is more than a doctor or companion, someone who views and understands her illness much better than she does herself. This reflects how she is dependent on his opinion.
Gilman provides information on gender roles in her time period by showing how the narrator’s husband’s treatment towards her is typical in that that he does not let her oppose his opinion when she tries to tell him she no longer needs rest. For instance, “he [sits] straight up and [looks] at [her] with such a stern, reproachful look that [she does] not say another word. ” He makes her feel as if she does not know what is in her own best interest. His decision to stay put in that house and her agreement to it without a word suggests the economic and social dependence of women on men.
The final similar obstacle they face is the expected gender role to which they have to be compliant. In “A Jury of Her Peers,” the representation of the kitchen as a woman’s sole domain of life indicates Minnie’s time and effort which she solely devotes to the duties of the house chores, particularly the kitchen. The overused condition of the stove is another object that suggests Minnie’s services to her husband. She is obligated to do so because of society’s perception of gender roles. Glaspell’s point in her story is that women’s worth has been sociologically devalued because of the attributes associated with each gender.
Women in those times were treated as subordinates to an extent that men did not value their emotions or the importance of their being. In the story, the men’s attitudes reflect this when they regard the details in the kitchen trivial and laugh at the fine stitching on her quilt. The society’s representation of an accepted form of male dominance, whether it is fair or not, drives Minnie to commit a murder. Similarly, the main character’s gender role in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” requires her to be compliant. Her state of being suppressed from her baby and the meetings from her loved ones implies the obedience towards her husband’s commandments.
Just like Minnie, she is ordered as well and is expected to obey, particularly because of her role as a woman. Gilman depicts men’s dominative role over women, she points out that they are controlling and underestimate women’s’ intellectual power. This is seen when she converses with her husband about moving elsewhere. He underestimates her ability to understand her own self. He decides for her feelings of wellness by giving her an impression that he knows better than she does. As a result, with a consistent attitude to be correct every time drives the women to literally think they are wrong.
Though they share a major theme, the authors have slightly different focuses. Gilman makes a convincing statement about the correlation between the concept of freedom and insanity. She shows how due to gender inequality a relationship between two unrelated variables is formed. Whereas, Glaspell shows due to gender inequality how men are incapable of understanding the subtlety of women’s communication. Despite of these trivial different focuses, however, the theme is one. Thus, owing to several similarities both of the stories, written exquisitely, give a comprehensive and explicit view of gender inequality.