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Feminism - Keene 1 Yaa Keene Intro to Short Fiction Iva...

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Keene 1 Yaa Keene Intro to Short Fiction Iva Popovicova 23 November, 2010 Feminine Expectations in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Katherine Mansfield’s “Bliss” Femininity can be defined in the Webster’s Dictionary as “the quality or nature of the female sex. “ However, to authors like Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Katherine Mansfield, who were living during the 19 th and early 20 th century, the word femininity, was something all women strived to convey. They strove to be the perfect wives, mothers, and daughters according to the standards society laid down for them. However, both women achieved much more in their lifetimes, than most women of the time could ever hope for. They incorporated aspects of their lives and their views on the expectations and rights of women in the short stories. In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Katharine Mansfield’s “Bliss,” the characters have social expectations placed upon them by their husbands and society. In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s arguably most famous work, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” it is clear that she was speaking about her views on feminism and social reform. Incidentally, when one looks at the story of her life, there are also many similarities that can be drawn from the main character of “The Yellow Wallpaper,” and Gilman herself. Charlotte Anna Perkins was born in Hartford, Connecticut in July 3, 1860 to a family of social reformers (Miskolcze 1). The great- niece of Harriet Beeches Stowe, she was born into a family already known for their social reform. At a young age she, in addition to her mother and siblings, was deserted by her father and lacked any form of motherly affection from her mother (Miskolcze 1). When Gilman was
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Keene 2 twenty-one, she met Walter Stetson and two years later they were married (Miskolcze 2). When their daughter Katherine Beecher was born on 23 March 1885, Gilman started her life long battle with depression. Like her character in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Charlotte consulted a well- respected specialist, Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, and like Gilman’s nameless narrator, she was prescribes the ‘rest cure,” which consisted of no manual labor what so ever, complete bed rest, and “"live as domestic a life as possible. Have your child with you all the time. . . . Have but two hours' intellectual life a day. And never touch pen, brush or pencil as long as you live." (Miskolcze 2). At the time depression by women was considered as a cry for attention, and wasn’t even considered as a real illness. Her depression got worse as a result this treatment, which led to the decline of her marriage. One when one reads “The Yellow Wallpaper,” it is clear that Gilman is writing about her experiences with post-partum depression and how the “rest cure” could drive one to insanity.
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