Characterization of Women in The Yellow Wallpaper and Desiree's Baby

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Characterization of Women in The Yellow Wallpaper and Desiree's Baby

There was a time (not so long ago) when a man's superiority and authority wasn't a question, but an accepted truth. In the two short stories, "Desiree's Baby", and "The Yellow Wallpaper", women are portrayed as weak creatures of vanity with shallow or absent personalities, who are dependent on men for their livelihood, and even their sanity. Without men, these women were absolutely helpless and useless. Their very existence hinged on absolute and unquestioning submission…alone, a woman is nothing.

The setting of both stories reinforces the notion of women's dependence on men. The late 1800's were a turbulent time for women's roles. The turn of the century
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John's wife describes their summer retreat as a "Colonial mansion, a hereditary estate, I would say a haunted house…The windows are barred" (158-161). Both dwellings are clearly symbolic of the dark, stifling circumstances surrounding a woman of the times. In fact, the narrator of "The Yellow Wallpaper" eventually perceives the very room she is in as a prison. When speaking of the paper she says, "By moonlight it becomes bars" (164) it is clear that she feels trapped.

Characterization also plays a major role in conveying the sexist and generally inferior manner in which women were treated and perceived. The men are condescending and unemotional. At first, Aubingy is described as passionately loving his Desiree…"That was how the Aubingy's fell in love, as if struck by a pistol shot" (141). However, upon finding that his baby is not the Aryan bundle of joy he'd thought it to be, the racially charged remark that Aubigny makes to his distraught wife is " I want you to go" (143). How can a love so powerful, which would have caused him to forget the importance of a name, have deserted him so readily? Almost as quickly as it came, the "love-light" went out of his eyes, and was replaced with unparalleled intolerance.
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