Exploring Feminist Identites Essay

1966 Words Feb 6th, 2014 8 Pages
Exploring Feminist Identities: Empowerment Through Duality Female writers constantly try to negotiate their identities in a society that exalts male opinion. That the protagonists of Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Chopin’s “A Pair of Silk Stockings” are married women places both discourses within a patriarchal, institutional framework. Immediately, a critique of marriage arises, and we are forced to examine how women are oppressed, either by patriarchy or by stereotypes placed on them as mothers and nurturers. It is evident that both stories serve to highlight the plight of women, though it remains arguable whether a solution is proposed. Gilman’s nameless protagonist goes mad, while Chopin’s “Little Mrs. Sommers” dreads going back …show more content…
As Karen Ford notes, “John is identified in relation to the patriarchy first and in relation to his wife only afterwards” (310), and the physician is the “quintessential man” (310), therefore “the epitome of male discourse” (310). For Mrs. Sommers, her desires are usually repressed, and the story describes what happens when she succumbs to her desire. Mrs. Sommers is the embodiment of the perfect wife, with her children as her source of pride and excitement. Her life also exemplifies the life of all women who become housewives and devote their lives to their family because that is expected of them. Both stories are not that different in the sense that they depict marriage in chronological order: Gilman’s protagonist, should she “recover”, would end up living the life of Mrs. Sommers. Through marriage, both stories reveal the oppressive force of patriarchy that reduces them to what Paula Treichler terms, “domestic slavery” (64). In both stories, the protagonists devise their own ways of escaping patriarchy. For Gilman, we are immediately introduced to the protagonist’s private thoughts and become complicit with her writing in her “dead paper” (115) that she calls her journal. We are offered insight of her struggles to construct an identity that is not imposed by society. Elaine Showalter recognizes

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