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The relationship between mental health and gender oppression

by | Jan 5, 2022 | Uncategorized

 

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Reading Assignment
Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”
In addition to the required reading, here are some other resources that I recommend checking out (not required but *highly* recommended):
Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short essay, “Why I Wrote ‘The Yellow Wallpaper https://www.americanyawp.com/reader/18-industrial-america/charlotte-perkins-gilman-why-i-wrote-the-yellow-wallpaper-1913/'”
Kathryn Hughes’s essay, “House of Horror: The Poisonous Power of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper.’ https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2020/feb/07/charlotte-perkins-gilman-yellow-wallpaper-strangeness-classic-short-story-exhibition” Written for The Guardian, this essay touches on the racial undertones of Gilman’s text, the story’s connection to the present day #MeToo movement, as well as the ways in which Gilman’s work resonates with contemporary visual artists.
Discussion Prompt
“The Yellow Wallpaper” is often described by literary scholars as a feminist text. (In the simplest terms, “feminism” can be understood as: The belief that all genders should have equal rights, power, and opportunities. Feminists recognize that gender inequalities exist in our society and they fight to dismantle the social, political, and economic hierarchies that subordinate people based on their gender). Do you agree with the claim that Gilman’s story, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” is a feminist text? In what way(s) does “The Yellow Wallpaper” address gender inequality? To answer these questions, you might consider any of the following:
The power dynamic between the narrator and her husband (John)
The kind of language that John uses when addressing his wife (how he talks to her)
How the narrator’s attitude and feelings toward her husband evolve over the course of the narrative
Discrepancies in how the narrator describes her husband’s behavior and treatment of her versus how we, as readers, perceive his behavior

The role of the baby (who is only mentioned a few times) in the story and/or the narrator’s position as a wife and new mother
The narrator’s perception of an obsession with the wallpaper in the nursery, including how her perception/hallucination of the wallpaper’s sub-pattern may reflect her own condition/situation, and the situation of women more generally
The relationship between mental health and gender oppression
The medical establishment’s treatment of women (as represented by John, who combines two positions of authority in a single character: husband and physician)
The story’s ambiguous conclusion (what happens? is the traditional male-female power dynamic subverted in the story’s final moment? and/or does the narrator suffer a complete mental breakdown?)
How the story connects with feminist movements today, such as the #MeToo movement (mentioned in Kathryn Hughes’s essay, linked above)
Whichever topic, or topics, you choose to focus on, make sure that, at some point in your response, you include textual evidence–i.e. a short quotation (no more than a couple of sentences, but even a well-selected phrase would suffice)–from “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Explain how the quotation supports your response/interpretation.

 

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