FEMINISMIN WHITE HERON AND THE YELLOW WALLPAPER
FEMINISMIN “AWHITEHERON”AND “THEYELLOW WALLPAPER”
“AWhite Heron” is a short story about a young girl called Sylvia whodecides to shift from the busy town life to the countryside to livewith her grandmother. One day while walking home with their cow, herpeace is disturbed by a whistle of a hunter who requests her for aplace to spend the night (Dabney, 2012). The hunter is desperatelysearching for "A White Heron," and he is willing to reward$10. It is coincidental that Sylvia knew where to find such bird,though she isn’t happy with the idea that the hunter traps andshoots different birds because of her love of birds. Following themention of the reward of money and knife, Sylvia takes the challengeof finding the heron to give the hunter. However, when she finds thebird, she does not reveal to the hunter the whereabouts of the birdinstead, she keeps it to herself.
“TheYellow Wallpaper” on the other hand, is a short story that attemptsto explain the societal roles assigned to John and Jane. The authorof the book, a prominent activist and supporter for the rights ofwomen, emphasizes on her account by use of her experiences allthrough the narration (Johnson, 2015). According to the author, thewoman is socialized to remain at home while the man has an obligationto care for her wife both emotionally and financially (Minguez,2014). Although the author puts more emphasis on the difficultiesassociated with being female, she also explores the roles assigned tothe male in the society. The domination that results from societalgender roles for men and women acts as a barrier for individuals toattain self-individuation.
Afterthe 19th century, the issue of feminism has become rampant by variouspeople who are against women discrimination and fighting for theirrights. Among the people trying to address feminism are Gilman andJewett in their short stories “The Yellow Wallpaper” and “TheWhite Heron” respectively. These two books give a clearillustration of the variations between males and females about theirdifferent social gender roles. These two stories by different authorsuse different approaches to address feminism. This paper will explorehow the two authors examine feminism, the belief that males andfemales should have equal rights in the society.
In“The White Heron” Jewett is attempting to show the strength of awoman and that female have more control over nature which is asignificant step towards feminism. According to the author, Sylviahas been brought up in a society where the only figure she knows isfemale (Dabney, 2012). Sylvia has no male relative till when shemeets with the hunter. Similarly, she has the power to decide whetherto trap the heron and hand it over to the hunter to be killed or saveits life (Jewett, 2012). Basically, in most stories the male huntershould be the one in control over the heron’s life because he has agun, which he can easily use to shoot the bird.
In“The Yellow Wallpaper” the author’s primary aim is to reveal toreaders on the impacts of social gender roles to men and women byusing Jane, the narrator and John as her protagonists (Johnson,2015). The author is against the gender roles assigned in patriarchalsocieties where men should be the rational thinkers and providerswhile women should be dutiful and submissive to their husbands(Minguez, 2014). Gilman examines on how the narrator’s submissiveand dutiful role as a wife results to her insanity. The narrator isso feminine to the extent she does not have a right to question hishusband’s decisions.
Similarly,In “The White Heron,” Sylvia reveals feminine traits whereby theauthor portrays her as one who loves, protects and ready to protectnature. She also represents femininity by purity and innocence.Despite the fact that she wanted the reward that was to be offered bythe hunter, her love for birds could not allow her to give out theheron to be killed (Dabney, 2012). She was out to protect the life ofthe heron. On the other hand, the hunter portrays masculinity wherebyhe possesses and uses weapons which symbolize violence, power andcontrol, aggressiveness and the ordinary men competition. Similarly,Sylvia depicts her femininity by the fear she expresses when she seesthe gun and the knife the hunter had” Sylvia would have liked himvastly better without his gun.” (Jewett, 2012)
Theauthor in this story portrays men as having financial power thanwomen where the hunter is ready to award Sylvia $10, and she isalmost convinced to bring him the heron. However, the author reflectsSylvia’s feminist character where she shows a negative reaction tothe money and stands for what is right according to her and notaccording to men, for instance, the hunter (Dabney, 2012). Anotherinstance where Sylvia reveals her feminist traits is when the authordepicts her as having a right to her sexuality. After they fall inlove with the hunter, he tries to show her some erotic attractionwhich she also feels in return, but she finally resists the sexualattraction and denies the hunter.
In“The Yellow Wallpaper” Gilman examines a marriage whereby thenarrator and her husband are obsessed to their gender roles and theresulting negative consequences (Johnson, 2015). The narratorexpresses her inferiority status in the society as a woman by blindlygiving into everything her husband says. John who is a doctormisdiagnoses her wife and confines her for bed rest. The narratoragrees since she believes she has no voice and right to act againsthis husband. The narrator depicts her feminist character through herlove for creativity and writing which is viewed as “men’s world.” Similarly, the author herself shows her rebellion and feminism byshifting to California to become a writer, which made her seem unfitto be a member of the patriarchal society.
Additionally,the author of “The Yellow Wallpaper” is totally against the ideaof the narrator relying on her husband to reinforce her writing andcreativity skills (Minguez, 2014). Gilman believes in writing andcreativity without checks and restraints. The author argues that ifthe narrator’s imagination was not repressed by her husband, shecould not have become a victim of psychotic failure.
Conclusively,the two short stories try to reveal the social gender roles of menand women in the male dominated societies and the various feministefforts aimed at equal rights for men and females. The White Heronreveals feminism though symbolically by portraying Sylvia as adetermined feminist. The Yellow Wallpaper, on the other hand, depictsfeminism as reinforced and described by the author of the bookthrough the use of the narrator of the story. Though the two booksdiffer in the approaches used by the two authors to examine feminism,they are both aimed at generating a society with equal gender rightsfor men and women.
Dabney,C. L. (2012). A Betrayal of Self: Sylvia’s Journey in “A WhiteHeron”. 2012 NCUR.
Jewett,S. O. (2012). AWhite Heron and Other Stories.Courier Corporation.
Johnson,R. (2015). Suppressionand Escape in" The Yellow Wallpaper".
Mínguez,M. T. G. (2014). Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The YellowWallpaper’: on How Female Creativity Combats Madness and DomesticOppression. Babelafial: Aspectos de filología inglesa y alemana,(23), 51-70.