Struggles of Women in Where is Here and The Yellow Wallpaper

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In some Gothic Literature when women are mentioned as a character it usually has a hidden meaning such as women being hopelessly submissive, significantly absent, or presented in a negative sense. These meanings display many different effects for women through the short stories that teach the readers how women felt and how they were treated in everyday life in the years these short stories took place. The presentation of women in old Gothic Literature usually shines a light on women’s roles and how they were treated in their homes by their husbands. In the short stories “Where is Here?” and “The Yellow Wallpaper” shows the struggle women went through mentally and physically in these time periods. 

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Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” is full of gothic elements and images. In this story the woman is portrayed in a negative sense and is also hopelessly submissive. These elements were blindly blamed on her mental illness or a medical condition she was convinced she had even though her husband believed otherwise. Throughout the story, the slow deterioration of the protagonist can be traced back to discontentment and entrapment within her marriage. This story shows the slow psychological deterioration of a woman plagued by the societal designation of who she should be and her role in the marriage and household in the time period of 1892. The home and marriage are all linked with gothic images that foreshadow the outcome of the main character’s problematic marriage. In the story the color of the wallpaper in the room where the protagonist of the story stayed carries gothic elements. To the protagonist there is something about the wallpaper’s yellow color, representing something stale, old and decaying. The yellow is described as “a smouldering unclean yellow” that is “strangely faded by slow turning sunlight.” Her reaction to the wallpaper suggests she thought the same of her marriage to John because she felt that her marriage was deteriorating. Images in “The Yellow Wallpaper” don’t necessarily fit the conventional definition of Gothic Literature in this time period, they definitely lean toward something unknown and haunted throughout this short story. The protagonist’s husband, John, keeps her in a room to “rest” is haunting enough but the additional elements within the room and the wallpaper lead to an unsettling feeling that could be described no other way. This story describes how women were expected to act in 1892 and since the women in this story couldn’t handle the drabness of her role she fell into a depression and started to feel controlled and imprisoned within the room she was left to “rest” and “get better” in.

Another short story that shows the struggle of women in the time period of 1992 is “Where is Here” by Joyce Carol Oates. In this story the women in this role the womens is hopelessly submissive. The meaning of this story is that a mysterious Man that looks just like the woman's husband shows up at their house and asks to view their property. The Man says that he used to live in the house with his mom and dad but as he ventures throughout the house he tends to relive and explain his past while viewing some specific areas of the house. While the man is going through their house the wife tells her husband she thinks the man should leave because he was beginning to make the couple uneasy. When the wife decides to voice her opinions her husband tends to ignore her and let the man continue for awhile. While the stranger notices the window seat he says “this was one of [his] happy places! At least when father wasn’t home” and this proposes that the wife and children were victims of a domineering father. And perhaps this visitor’s memories and comments force them to acknowledge some horrible truth about themselves and their family. At a certain point in the story the mysterious man asks why the couple had two children. “The father stared at him as if he hadn’t heard correctly. ‘Why?’ The father asked. ‘Yes Why?’ the man repeated ‘But you love them of course. Of course, of course,’ the strange man murmured ‘otherwise it would all come to an end.’” These lines play a significant role because the stranger is suggesting that a lack of love would result in a violent ending which could’ve been the case with his family.

While reading these stories the characters are portrayed in many different ways and mostly the women in these stories are the ones who are secretly suffering. When looking back on “Where is Here?” I could see how the strange man was secretly how the family was living their life and the wife and kids were not happy and being abused. These women are mostly viewed as hopelessly submissive and many women were depressed and hated their everyday lives.  

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