There was a time female writers’ mental condition were questioned simply because they chose to write. Ridiculous, however, it was believed by people that writing might be what causes mental illness in women and men. Even today a person might be considered “crazy” for expressing him or herself in writing. For some odd reason, women writers back in the 19th and early 20th centuries were said to have been sick with depression.
From the start of Charlotte Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” it is apparent to me that the protagonist feels alone and even confined in the new mansion her and her husband live in. Furthermore, I think she makes it clear that she is in some mental struggle and finds something off about the mansion. “I sometimes fancy that in my condition if I had less opposition and more society and stimulus” (Gilman 13). However, in this quote I gather her condition reflects more on her feeling of confinement. She is restrained from living and doing what she desires. She likes to write, but feels forced not to, because her husband doesn’t want her to. “There comes John, and I must put this away-he hates to have me write a word” (Gilman 40). She is controlled and I feel Gilman is trying to show readers how the control over a person can cause the illness the protagonist has. Writing is her medicine. Society’s and John’s control is her sickness. The main character makes her own observation of the mansion, including the garden and how she feels the place is located a lonely distance from everything else. I think she reveals her loneliness and confinement through her observation of her living situation. It is a big mansion. Wow! But she is trapped in John’s world of passive misunderstanding!
In “Maggie, a Girl of the Streets”, Stephen Crane portrays Maggie, who has her own struggles. But unlike the protagonist in Gilman’s story, she struggles against poverty and is imprisoned by it in a way. On the other hand, there is a similarity between the main character in Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Maggie. They are both prisoners within their family and society. In addition, they are both misunderstood by their family, due to society’s perspective during that time, which reflects so much on households too: the girls must do what their mother tells them to and grow up in society as they desire them to. Their husbands make all of the decisions and are always supposed to be correct with their judgments. Maggie’s mother is obviously strict about this, so much to kick her daughter out of the home. The husband in “The Yellow Wallpaper” also ignores his wife’s emotions. He does not even care to understand her before locking her away. Neither the mother or husband show remorse for their actions because they don’t find their actions wrong. They both think it’s their place in the family to treat people in such ways that feeling guilty about it isn’t possible.
I believe both stories are examples of how women struggle in a society that are more fixed on rules laid out by society as a whole instead of understanding the individual. Of course, females already had it hard during this period on the count of not being viewed as equals.
Crane, Stephen. Maggie, a Girl of the Streets. N.p.: Amazon Digital Services, 2012. Kindle file.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wallpaper. N.p.: Amazon Digital Services, 2013. Kindle file.