Theme of Entrapment in The Awakening and The Yellow Wallpaper

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Theme of Entrapment in The Awakening and The Yellow Wallpaper

Topics of great social impact have been dealt with in many different ways and in many different mediums. Beginning with the first women’s movement in the 1850’s, the role of women in society has been constantly written about, protested, and debated. Two women writers who have had the most impact in the on-going women’s movement are Kate Chopin and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The Awakening and The Yellow Wallpaper are two of feminist literature’s cornerstones and have become prolific parts of American literature. Themes of entrapment by social dictates, circumstance, and the desire for personal independence reside within each work and bond the two together.

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The Awakening begins in Grand Isle, while Edna and her husband are on vacation from New Orleans. The society of the time dictated that Edna was tied to her husband, her children and her home. Many of the rules of New Orleans society are relaxed in Grand Isle and Edna is free to explore many new things. The simple act of learning to swim becomes liberating for Edna. When she is swimming, she feels as though she is completely free of the oppressive circumstances of her life. Edna’s relationship with Mademoiselle Reisz further helps her learn new things and empower herself. Mademoiselle teaches her basic artistry skills which allow her to fully explore her talent and creativity. This artistic freedom is part of the culmination of Edna’s freedom within society. The harsh constraints placed upon women in the society which Edna lives make total freedom and independence almost unattainable. Edna’s inability to escape her husband and her attachment to her children led her to her ultimate downfall. Having no place to turn or escape to, Edna commits suicide, which appeared to be the only possible means for achieving freedom and liberation.

The protagonist of The Yellow Wallpaper faces much different circumstances than Edna. She enjoys a small but significant amount of freedom through writing and personal experience. However, when her husband diagnoses her as mentally ill and prescribes a length of time in the country as
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