Constraint is present in Charlotte Perkins Gilmans The Yellow Wallpaper and James Joyces The Boarding House. In both short stories, society has placed the main characters and their lives under its evil grip. All the characters live under a blanket of limitations that society has placed upon them and the short stories show their battle to break away from societys constraints. Societal constraint is explored by both authors in order to convey along to the reader a message.
This common theme for both short stories is used to show the grip society really has on us and how it affects different people. Society has always had an influence on the way people think and act. Many beliefs and actions viewed as unique are many times shunned upon by members of society. This constraint on being an individual is explored in Gilmans The Yellow Wallpaper and Joyces The Boarding House. Both authors show how societys constraints put stress on individuals lives. In some cases this stress is good for the characters, but for some characters societys constraints are too much.
Gilman uses The Yellow Wallpaper to illustrate the control man has over women in modern day society. The wife in The Yellow Wallpaper goes through a nervous depression during the short story. Gilman never really comes out and states the reasons behind the wifes mental condition, but throughout the short story she constantly makes references to the womans sense of inferiority to her husband, John. In The Yellow Wallpaper, John is used to represent all men and their feelings toward women. Although men do not consciously take control over females live, they still do.
It has always been mans nature to take charge and be the dominant gender. The wife always wants to please the husband and listen to his word as though it was law. She never wants to displease her husband or go against any of his advice. This is apparent when the wife quits writing, which calms her down, just because her husband feels that it would be better for her. The wife takes the mans advice in this situation, because that is what society has trained her to do. In her mind she is not her own person, she is only Johns wife.
When John decides that the best treatment for his wife would be time away from their normal life he rents out an old mansion for the couple to live in during the summer. Even though the wife does not like the idea, she still follows the man, because society says he knows what is best for her. When the couple arrives at the mansion the time away from home seems to have the opposite effect on the wife that John intended. Her mental condition begins to worsen and her sense of despair continues to grow.
The main reason for this continued depression is the bedroom in which the couple stays. The windows were barred like a prisons and the huge, immovable bed sits in the middle of the room. The walls were covered with yellow, patterned wallpaper that constantly caught the wifes attention. The yellow wallpaper on the wall would eventually become a representation of societys constraint on individual feminism. The yellow wallpaper begins to bother the wife so much that she eventually loses her mind, completely.
At the end the husband finds the wife ripping off the wallpaper in the bedroom. This was the women tearing down the control her husband has over her. At the end of the story she is finally free. Joyce uses a totally different approach to societys constraints on life. In The Boarding House a women, Mrs. Mooney, is trying to find a suitable husband for her daughter, Polly. Mrs. Mooney runs a boarding house in England during the late nineteenth century, and to just let her daughter run off would be unacceptable in societys eyes.
Nevertheless, Mrs. Mooney lets Polly have her way with the male residents of the boarding house. Mrs. Mooney watches silently as Polly begins to grow fond of Mr. Doran, a resident of the boarding house. The rumors start to make their way around the house regarding Mr. Doran and an affair with the young Polly. At this point in the story Mrs. Mooney realizes that she has societys opinion on her side about premarital affairs and what a better time than then to confront the two about the relationship.
With societys constraint on premarital affairs and other proper courting of a woman, Mr. Doran is obligated to ask for Pollys hand in marriage. His reputation and more importantly his job depended on him following society. We conform to what society wants us too. That is just mankinds nature, to always follow what everyone is doing. The wife saw all the men in her life as superior to her and she always obeyed them. Finally she overcame her husbands constraint on her and in her own bizarre way she broke away from societys constraints. Mrs. Mooney uses societys opinion and power to her advantage in The Boarding House.
Mr. Dorans fear of social disapproval was enough to force him into a marriage that may have never happened under different circumstances. Constraint is an integral part of our life and how we make decisions. It affects how we act and what we believe. Joyce and Gilman use this common human weakness to relate their short stories to the reader and convey the fact that we cant let everything be decided for us. Everyone has their right to make their own decision and society should not stand in the way.