For decades, women have fought and continue to fight an underrated battle with society. Women struggled with inequality and with being inferior to men for generations so long now that this inequality is considered to be acceptable in society as a traditional social standard. Women were considered weaker, emotionally and physically, and less intelligent with little to no ability to make decisions for herself or for others in comparison to men.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper”, Henrik Ibsen’s play “A Doll House”, and additional online sources support the concept of speaking out against women’s inequality. Women are lashing in opposition to society’s social customs for their equal rights. Women created feminism which is a movement that seeks to attain equality to men with their social, political and economic rights and to prevent the traditional views, treatments and expectations of women from historical times from proceeding.
As a matter of fact, Gilman’s story spoke mostly of the oppression women endured due to their husbands and a few hints of the slow start of feminism. Similar to the narrator in Gilman’s writing, many women were oppressed by their husbands and other men in their lives. Since women were depicted as so helpless and fragile, men believed it was their responsibility to take charge and make decisions for women. Gilman wrote that the narrator suffered from “temporary nervous depression” (76) and her husband concluded the best treatment would be for her to rest as much as possible. 76)
In regards to that, the narrator expressed, “Personally, I disagree with their ideas. Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good. But what is one to do? I did write for a while in spite of them; but it does exhaust me a good deal – having to be so sly about it, or else meet with heavy opposition” (Gilman 76). This scenario indicates how a woman’s words, even concerning her own affairs, meant very little to others. Her husband predicted he knew what was best for her and she felt she had no right to object to his judgment.
She understood that if she was caught disobeying her husband’s orders, she would be in a predicament with him; still, the narrator continued to do what she was forbidden to do in secret which demonstrates how the inequality among men and women resulted in a division between both parties. Although she rebelled secretly and silently, the narrator demonstrated a start of feminism as she chose to disregard her husband’s orders and maintain her own thoughts and sly actions. In addition, Gilman showed the progressing process of feminism through use of literary devices and the narrator’s actions.
Throughout the short story, the narrator had become intensely obsessed with a yellow wallpaper in the home she resided in temporarily. Within this wallpaper, the narrator envisioned a trapped woman. The narrator expressed, “Sometimes, I think there are a great many women behind, and sometimes only one, and she crawls around fast, and her crawling shakes it all over. Then in the very bright spots she keeps still, and in the very shady spots she just takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard. And she is all the time trying to climb through.
But nobody could climb through that pattern -” (Gilman 86). The woman she imagined symbolized herself and the wallpaper symbolized all the things that caged her. The narrator felt trapped behind traditions and her husband although she was not conscious of it. Towards the conclusion of the story, Gilman clearly illustrated the beginning of feminism as the narrator managed to free the imaged woman in the wallpaper. “I’ve got out at last,’ I said, ‘in spite of you and Jane. And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back’! … Now why should that man have fainted?
Be he did, and right across my path by the wall, so that I had to creep over him every time” (89)! In other words, the narrator proclaimed her freedom as she freed the woman she imagined within the wallpaper. She teared down the wallpaper which symbolized her tearing down all that controlled her. Once her husband observed what she had done, he fainted in shock of her actions and she had to creep over him. She did not merely step, or leap, over her husband, but she crept which represents women’s very slow but steady step towards overcoming their inequality to men.
Correspondingly, Ibsen directed his play to expressed the оррr pression of women, the way women were made to depend heavily on men, and the lack of equality between men and women. Ibsen showed the way women were viewed through the eyes of men throughout the 1800s. Often times throughout the play, the protagonist, Nora, was referred to playfully as “helpless” (Ibsen. Act. 889) or said to behave childishly (Act. 905) by her husband, Helmer, when she attempted to think independently. In the beginning of the play, Nora willingly gave her husband power and control over her because it was uncommon for women not to.
Often, Nora stated to Helmer, “Direct me. Teach me, the way you always have” (Act. 889). Thus, Nora initially fully accepted her role as a woman in society. Women were considered to be fragile and lived only through the life and actions of their husbands rather than their own. Mrs. Linde, an old friend of Nora’s, accepted this as the way of life and committed to it as she said to her former lover, Krogstad, “But now I’m completely alone in the world; it frightens me to be so empty and lost. To work for yourself-there’s no joy in that.
Nils, give me something- someone to work for” (Act. 893). To that, Krogstad’s response was, “I don’t believe all this. It’s just some hysterical feminine urge to go out and make a noble sacrifice” (Act. 893). That reaction provided a view of the distinction men had created between themselves and women. The “feminine urge” (893) would be an emotion that only females made explicit and Krogstad joined it with terms like hysterical to signify the exaggeration and foolishness they considered to be in feminine actions; a sign of the inequality hat exist between men and women.
This was a treatment and discrimination that woman faced from men for years and it served as a motivator in women’s push with feminism. Moreover, the transition from only existing through a man’s possession to being independent, a goal of feminism, was evident in Ibsen’s play as well. Ibsen exposed the change in women’s thinking, the realization of their treatments, and the idea of all the opportunities they miss from living in the shadows of a man.
After Helmer discovered his wife secretly took a loan from a despicable man to care for him and forged her father’s signature to do so, Helmer responded with a number of insults. He claimed to no longer love Nora for she was”… a hypocrite, a liar… ” (Ibsen. Act. 900). Yet, once Helmer realized that Krogstad has agreed to allow the secret can go on unknown and it posed no threat to his reputation, he attempted to take back his cruel words and expected to be forgiven immediately. However, Nora already came to acknowledge the power and control over her that she had been feeding Helmer.
This was a major turning point in Nora’s life as she realized she had be unable to do the things she wished to do, not without permission or scolding, due to living in his husband’s shadows. Nora briefly explained to Helmer, “I’ve been your doll-wife here, just as at home I was Papa’s doll-child” (Ibsen. Act. 904). She shared that she felt she had been living her life through his, through his actions, commands and words, and she had lived that way under her father’s roof as well. Nora informed Helmer that she realized that the importance of her duties to herself surpass her duties as a mother and wife.
Nora said, “I believe that before all else, I’m a human being, no less than you… I know the majority thinks you’re right, Torvald, and plenty of books agree with you, too. But I can’t go on believing what the majority says, or whats written in books. I have to think over these things myself and try to understand them” (Ibsen. Act. 905). According to Helmer, Nora must play her role as a wife and a mother before she could ever consider taking part in anything else in her life but Nora found the courage to stand as an independent woman.
She came to the conclusion that she should be her first priority and that she missed that point all her life. Nora explained to Helmer that, regardless of what others may say or think, she believed she needs to find and understand her own identity. This transition Nora makes near the end of the play signifies the purpose and goal of feminism. Women hope to open the eyes of other women all over who are living under in the shadow of the men in their lives and encourage them to stand up for themselves and to live for themselves just as Nora sets out to do.