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Feminist Criticism of The Yellow Wallpaper and The Awakening


Feminist Criticism of The Yellow Wallpaper and The Awakening Escaping Patriarchal Roles in Society A Feminist Criticism According to Kate Chopin s Short Fiction ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Feminist Criticism of The Yellow Wallpaper and The Awakening

Feminist Criticism of The Yellow Wallpaper and
The Awakening
  • Escaping Patriarchal Roles in Society

A Feminist Criticism
  • According to Kate Chopins Short Fiction A
    Critical Companion, the feminist critic must
    investigate the affects of sex, gender, and
    patriarchal society to determine their impact on

Plot Summary
  • The Yellow Wallpaper explores womens roles
    through the metaphor of a mentally-ill patient
    and her physician.
  • The patient disagrees with the diagnosis and
    prognosis of her male doctors, but her arguments
    are ignored because she is in a submissive
  • The woman is freed from this position through
    hallucinations projecting her feelings.
  • The nameless protagonist imagines a female is
    trapped behind the bars of a mysterious yellow
    wallpaper, and gains freedom by ripping down the
    paper to free her.
  • The reader is aware of the actions in the story
    through the narrators diary or forbidden

Plot Summary Continued
  • The Awakening centers around Madame Pontellier,
    an upper class Louisianan, attempting to escape
    her traditional feminine role as mother and wife.
  • This woman, a painter, expands the social laws
    of the Creole culture and abandons her children
    and husband, setting up an independent house and
  • She has an affair with a younger man and
    entertains socially unaccepted guests. This
    character deviates from the norm of upper-class
  • Chopins character eventually contemplates and
    commits suicide her path of escape.

  • Kate Chopin and Charlotte Perkins Gilman are both
    female authors who attempt, through literary
    works, to convey womens frustration with
    traditional societal roles.
  • The authors offer characters that break with the
    reality of patriarchal society to gain
  • Gilman is focusing on the need for women to have
    internal, mental control while the need for women
    to be physically free and sexually conscious is
    the theme of Chopins novel.

Physical Independence
  • Kate Chopins novel emphasizes the physical
    realities of feminine roles in patriarchal
  • Madame Pontellier is concerned with freeing
    herself physically through love affairs and
    maintaining an independent household.
  • Her artistic endeavors are external. Her
    paintings are of other people and concrete,
    physical objects. She does not work with
    abstract feelings.
  • She physically breaks with reality by taking
    control of her own death, drowning herself in the
    ocean at the novels close. This ultimate
    demonstration of autonomy is taken as an act of

Chopin Addresses Feminism
  • Chopin uses the Pontelliers to demonstrate a
    first wave feminist idea about urges.
  • Monsieur Pontellier is compulsive in spending and
    his actions, but not regarded as abnormal.
  • Edna becomes more compulsive and acts on urges to
    buy as well as sexual urges. Her actions are
    viewed as rebellious and strange.
  • The gender roles in patriarchal society allow
    these distinctions in character to be accepted.
  • Men are thought to be aggressive while women are
    traditionally expected to be passive.

Mental Control
  • The Yellow Wallpaper conveys the mental
    suppression of women in patriarchal society.
  • The narrator is forced by her doctors to withdraw
    from academic discussion and stimulating company.
    She has no control over her own mental
  • Her diary, though forbidden, is her only creative
    outlet and is also an internal type of art. She
    concentrates on interpretation and personal
  • The narrators break with reality is found in her
    hallucinations about the yellow wallpaper and the
    woman she imagines trapped inside. This is
    internal loosening with reality is an attempt by
    the narrator to control and dominate her world.

Credibility Through Experience
  • Gilmans patient and physician metaphor is
    powerful and useful because of her own
    experiences with mental-illness.
  • Charlotte Perkins GilmanFor many years I
    suffered from a severe and continuous nervous
    breakdown tending to melancholiathis story was
    not intended to drive people crazy, but to save
    people from being driven crazy, and it worked
  • This image opens the feminist argument and
    womens placement in patriarchal society to a
    broader, expanded audience.
  • Gilmans ideas correspond with what is known as
    radical feminism. She doesnt want equality with
    men she wants recognition as a woman.

Works Cited
  • Chopin, Kate. Case Studies in Contemporary
    Criticism The Awakening. Ed. Walker, Nancy A.
    Boston Bedford/St. Martins, 2000.
  • Lane, Anne J., ed. The Charlotte Perkins Gilman
    Reader. New York Pantheon Books, 1980.
  • http//empirezine.com/spotlight/chopin/chopin1.htm
  • http//beta.news8.net/externalwebsite.hrb?website
  • http//www.selfknowledge.com/hrlnd10.htm
  • I Am Woman by Helen Reddy
  • 4652
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