Taylor absolute power men have in patriarchal societies,

Taylor (2012) has argued in his studies of why men oppress
women that, ‘most women throughout history have been enslaved by men’ and this
is shown in both The Yellow Wallpaper and The Bell Jar. Gilman’s
short story The Yellow Wallpaper, incorporates the absolute power men
have in patriarchal societies, which they abuse towards women. This ownership
and control over women to fit the traditional gender roles is constructed
through gaslighting and its complete psychological manipulation leading to the
female’s mental illness. Mental illness being defined as a condition which
causes serious disorder in one’s behavior or thinking. Whereas, the
contemporary piece of Plath’s novel The Bell Jar, the inability to
control the pressure and fit into the traditional gender roles is the catalyst
of Esther’s mental illness.

 

Gilman’s short story is written in the first-person narrative
in a journal. This is a privilege to the reader as it is the anonymous narrator’s
personal perspective.  The
confidentiality of her narrative, including her work as a passionate writer, is
presented as something she has to be ‘so sly about it’ around the other
characters in the short story, including her husband. The slyness of her writing
also connotes a sense of guilt possessing the narrator although writing is her
way to escape from her physical confinement. To add to this, it builds distrust
within the reader of John (the husband and her doctor) as well as his motive
due to his hatred towards the narrator engaging with literature.  This is reflective of the oppression of women
due to the traditional gender roles, which consisted of having a purpose of
being a wife not intellectual and educated, as that was a male-dominated field.

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Plath builds a similar trust between the narrator and the
reader in The Bell Jar as the majority of the novel is recollections or inner dialogue.
However, in The Bell Jar it can also be viewed as a limited narrative, one
which is detached and cold when recollecting her memories. This detachment
could be derived from the pressure of traditional gender roles and
representative of the desolation of conventional expectations. Esther may feel
as being alienated from a world and has to repress her dark humor. This
isolation is presented by Plath instantly in the first section of Chapter 1, as
Esther explains that due to her fortunate circumstances she should feel
satisfied and fulfilled however she finds herself not ‘steering anything, not
even myself.’  Despite overcoming her
middle-class, with few opportunities she is unmotivated by the artificially glamourous
New York, in fact in had the opposite effect and has made her feel ‘very empty’.
Through this Plath connotes numbness that occupies Esther, foreshadowing the
takeover of madness and future mental illness, in a way of which the conflict of
her feelings and the societal expectations becomes so large it leaves Esther
unable to survive under it.

 

It can also be argued that both of the first-person
narratives in both The Yellow Wallpaper and The Bell Jar, are untrustworthy and
unreliable due to their mental state and disorder. This is clear when the
anonymous narrator of The Yellow Wallpaper frustratingly addresses the reader, “you
see he does not believe I am sick!”, this desperate yet alarming pronoun can be
representative of the start of the deterioration of the protagonist into mental
illness. This convinced belief that she is sick can be seen as a product of
John’s acts and his controlling behavior, revealing the oppression and
ignorance within the household. It is clear to the reader that this
relationship is under a controlling behavior, eing constructed by John as he
deprives the protagonist of means needed for independence as well as from
sources of support

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