Why do women fall short in literature, just why?

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This entry is based on Gilbert and Gubar's "The Yellow Wallpaper."

Quote #1: "While some male authors also use such imagery for implicitly or explicitly confessional projects, women seem forced to live more intimately with the metaphors they have created to solve the "problem" of their fall" (Gilbert and Gubar 261).

Quote #2: "Women themselves have often, of course, been described as houses" (261).

So, once again, women are being described as a falling part of culture and as houses. Why?

I found these quotes to be very interesting because they describe how women authors differ from male authors. This seems true, do you think?

Take a male author, for example, and how usually they describe women as being not as worthy as them or the male characters in the story. On the other hand, a woman author usually makes the women in the text have a presence in society and/or a role. There seems to be some discrimination between male and female authors.

As I continued to read the text, Gilbert and Gubar describe women as being "houses." I took this quote two ways. First, women, such as the narrator in "The Yellow Wallpaper," are described as becoming insane from a male authoritative house. Secondly, history has presented women as being "house wives" and taking care of the house.

When I began to use my learned psychology on that quote, I thought of something interesting. Maybe women are being described as an image of a house because a house is not moveable and neither were most women during the 18th and 19th centuries. Women grew up in houses, married in houses, worked in houses, and in some cases died in houses. So women were immovable as a house usually is.

Do you believe that Gilman made the narrator lose her insanity in the house in order to give the reader an image of women through history?

OR

Do you think that Gilbert and Gubar use the house metaphor as a way to describe the roles of women compared to males?

Click here for the course web page devoted to Gilbert and Gubar.

5 Comments

Derek, I wrote my paper using a Freudian view of a dream sequence. Because our main character is living in an altered state, this kind of critique could probably work for "The Yellow Wallpaper," too. The house, according to Freud, would symbolize a female genital organ. This would make sense because it was her sexuality that initially put her into this mess. What do you think?

Wow!! You touch upon an area of Freud that I did not think about.

I can sort of see the house as a female genital organ, but my lenses are still blurred somewhat.

Could you explain this to me again, but please?

I think that this is a great way to approach the text and I am interested in seeing your view.

Derek, you make such an interesting point and I never thought of it like that before.
"Take a male author, for example, and how usually they describe women as being not as worthy as them or the male characters in the story. On the other hand, a woman author usually makes the women in the text have a presence in society and/or a role. There seems to be some discrimination between male and female authors."
Ok, so I had to put your comment in here so I could look at without scrowling up and down the page, anyways, I really agree with this part of your thought. It makes sense that the male authors would be like this because this how society was like (at least during Gilman's time), I think they did this because this is what they knew. I also think a lot of women wanted things to be different, they wanted to be heard, so I think they created something that they would want to see in the future. I really don't think these female authors put themselves in an important role in society for no reason.

I'm glad you chose to talk about these points of this article Derek, because I found them to be such strange points in an essay that was attempting a feminist critique. I admit that I am not an avid studier of feminist view points; however, I think these authors have not done a very good job of creating a feminist argument and supporting it.

For instance, the three female authors that Gilbert and Gubar choose to write about are probably some of the most ill female writers ever to live. Two of them killed themselves after life long battles with depression, and Emily Dickinson was a self-created recluse for most of her life. Despite these facts, they make generalizations concerning all women. They do sometimes mention women "during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries" when women were not often accepted as literary figures, or were accepted as sub-par literary figures, and when the woman's place was without a doubt in the home. However, I want to point out that the female being compared to a house is not always negative. The only way that life can be continued on earth is through birth, which only women can achieve. Also, consider how many mothers are only housewives or hold only part time jobs. These women do not sit at home all day twiddling their thumbs. Taking care of a household is a full time job that many women who work complete on their own. Also, consider the fact that today there are many single fathers or stay-at-home fathers while it is the mother who makes more money at her job, so she is the one who goes to work. How would this symbol of the home that Gilbert and Gubar suggest hold up today, or even for many stories about families in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries? This symbol of the house could be just as easily applied to men as well.

Do I think that women should never work outside the home? Of course not. Do I think that no husband helps his wife around the house even though he works and she does not? No way. But do I believe that Gilbert and Gubar are incorrect in most if not all of their analysis? Absolutely. I just cannot believe that anyone could suggest that women are so constantly thinking about their own sinfulness due to the fall of Eve to Satan in the Garden of Eden that they would write about it as intimately as if they had experienced it themselves. There are, in fact, only two reasons why women would write about this idea. The first is that the woman is so devout and pious that they would in fact think of this often and wish to write about it, something that is rare among authors of fiction then and now, and the second is that there is a literary purpose to the usage of such themes, something that Gilbert and Gubar do not even consider. Why couldn’t they have been using these symbols, not to whine about their own lives, but to create a stylistic interpretation of a horror story, of poems about nature, or of poems comparing contemporary figures to historical ones?

I basically agree with Sue. I think that Gilbert and Gubar looked at these authors and their works in a way that suggested they were not great, but rather the women who created them were just complaining about their lives of dutiful behavior, behavior that was only rewarded through discrimination and abuse. Gilbert and Gubar seem to search for pity rather than the respect that these brillant authors deserve for their progressive thinking.

I also agree that this essay used the most vivid pieces of literature when trying to analyze female writers.

I also do not think that women write based on only Adam and Eve and their sin in the garden. I think that this adds to the idea and their writing is mostly based on their experiences in life and possibly the history of the culture.

I think that Gilbert and Gubar used these authors to emphasize how these females were trying to explain the difficult times that women were going through.

I thank you for your comment and I think that female authors during this time period were trying to explain or show their pain whereas male authors were trying to describe their success and their control in society.

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This page contains a single entry by Derek Tickle published on February 28, 2009 3:33 PM.

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