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Oppression of Women Essay

Throughout history, women were not given the same rights and privileges as males.

Due to gender discrimination, women have always been suppressed by society and men as they were often seen as inferior. Around the 18th century and 19th century, many females began to take feminist point of views to fight against societies norms and wrote about the oppression that many females faced. In the texts: “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin, “The Valley of Childish Things” by Edith Wharton, and “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the female authors exemplify the writers between the 18th and 19th century who educated the public about the oppression women faced to uplift the unfair discrimination. Although females are taught to become submissive to males, it is important for females to rebel against society’s norm; therefore the authors of the texts address the problems of oppression and lack of freedom during their time period.

The death of a spouse is often difficult to handle both physically and emotionally, however when the spouse is the oppressor, one can simply be filled with relief when the shackles help upon them are unleashed. In the short story, “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin, Mrs. Mallard is informed by her sister, Josephine, that her husband been killed in a train accident. Rather than mourning, she is elated by the thought of freedom due to her suppressor being gone. Chopin writes, “She [Mrs. Mallard] could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life. The delicious breath of rain was in the air” (Chopin, P4). Chopin uses symbolism and imagery to justify the excitement of a female’s new beginning without her suppressor. The imagery from “the tops of trees that were all aquiver” expresses the excitement Mrs. Mallard feels even if she is a bit shaken up. Furthermore, “the new spring life” symbolizes a new independent beginning for Mrs. Mallard in which she can now explore the world and do what she wishes without having to be stopped by her husband. Moreover, the author continues to emphasize the new beginning of Mrs. Mallard’s life when she writes “the delicious breath of rain in the air”. “The delicious breath of rain in the air” represents the taste of renewal from the “rain”. The word “rain” is typically associated with a renewal of life. However, towards the end Mr. Mallard comes back home which crushes Mrs. Mallard’s thoughts of her future independent life. During this time period, it was extremely difficult for many females to execute what they have dreamed of doing without the consent of a man. Therefore, Chopin’s message of the story is that no matter the time period, males will still find a way to be the oppressors of women. Therefore, society’s norm and men constantly put women down.


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In the short story “The Valley of Childish Things”, the author Edith Wharton argues that women are constantly being discouraged from becoming brighter and more open minded by society and males due to sexism. Wharton uses a fairy tale writing technique to write about a young girl who sets foot out of the valley, which she lived all her life, to discover what the outside world has to offer. During the journey into the outside world, the girl becomes a woman due to her loss of her once credulous mind as she becomes educated and exposed. Along the way back to the valley, the woman meets a man from her childhood who took a similar journey into the outside world. When they come back to the “Valley of Childish Things”, the children do not accept her for who she is and criticizes her for her differences. Wharton writes “Really, my dear, you ought to have taken better care of your complexion” (Wharton, P8). Wharton uses an allegory in this quote to exemplify the naivete of males and the oppression caused by society’s norms of how a female should look and be during her time period. Though the man had traveled out to the outside world and had gained knowledge, once he came back to the “Valley of Childish Things”, he disposed his mature mind and became a child again. The female’s “complexion” is not as beautiful as the other girls of the valley because she is now a woman and has become exposed and tarnished by the negativities of the outside world. Her “complexion” represents her loss of innocence compared to the other sheltered, ignorant girls of the Valley who have not become exposed to the outside world. When the man tells her to take “better care of” her “complexion”, he is telling her to become naive and submissive like the other girls of the valley. This exemplifies males and our society oppressing women to fit into what they call normal and obedient housewives. A woman’s brain intelligence is not as appreciated as a woman’s appearance, as shown in the story, because they are supposed to be ignorant and submissive. Through the oppression of women, women can easily become depressed and insane due to their lack of freedom.

In the story “The Yellow Wallpaper”, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Gilman writes of the consequences of a woman being oppressed by her husband. In the story, the woman is diagnosed with an illness and in result, her husband, John a physician, kept her isolated in a yellow nursery room, which she despises. Although she nags her husband about letting her out to see her family, he insists that she stay in the nursery room and ignores any of her requests; however, in spite of having no voice, she insists that he is doing this out of love and experience from being a physician. Being trapped in this confined room however, causes her to become depressed, which later drives her into insanity. Gilman writes “It is so hard to talk with John about my case, because he is so wise, and he loves me so” (Gilman, page 21). Gilman uses irony in this quote as John is a physician who is supposed to be “wise”, yet he does not know what it best for his wife and is only causing her illness to get worse. His wife feels as if “It is so hard to talk with John” because he does not allow for her to express her opinions and feels the superiority need to take care of his wife. His way of taking care of her and expressing his “love” is by treating her like a child, like he does by locking her up in the yellow nursery room. Moreover, his wife’s dependency of him makes him feel more powerful than she. However, due to his practices as a “wise” physician, he puts his wife into a deep depression that later causes her to become insane. This comes to show that men like to feel superior to females and do not know when to stop, even if their acts are mentally abusing their spouse. Society’s belief of having males take care of their wife is neurotic as it drives males into a compulsive behavior to be in charge. The lack of freedom Gilman writes about is relatable to present day as many females are still being suppressed by their companions, which causes them to have mental disorders like the female character of the story. The oppression of women by both men has been around for a long duration of time and it typically stems off from their lust of power.

From the information gathered from the three texts, it is clear to say that throughout history, women have been suppressed by men and society’s norms. In the texts: “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin, “The Valley of Childish Things” by Edith Wharton, and “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the female authors bring attention to the egregious cliche belief of men being more superior than women and of women having to be obedient, well mannered housewives. This common belief that men and society hold causes women to become discouraged to chase after their dreams, depressed from their lack of freedom, and insane, as demonstrated in the texts. The authors employ the literary devices: imagery, symbolism, allegory, and irony, to further substantiate the harm caused by female oppression during the 18th and 19th century. Although the texts are written about the oppression of women during the 18th and 19th century, it is salient to note that female oppression will continue to happen in the future due to the ingrained misconception of women being worth less than males and the dominance that many males feel they need. Female oppression is an issue that will always be talked about no matter the time period.

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