Women have been faced with oppression almost all their lives. Society, spouses and families play a huge role in oppressing women, making them society’s puppets. Authors of the 20th century like Charlotte Gilman and Joyce Oats, were able to break the silence, and voice their opinions and concerns in short stories like “The Yellow Wallpaper” written by Charlotte Gilman, and “Where are you now, where are you going” by Joyce oats. Joyce Oats and Charlotte Gilman created short stories depicting how women living in a patriarchal society can cause mental breakdowns, and psychological problems.
Oppression can lead to a mental breakdown where reality becomes distorted. In both short stories, even though the technique of the oppression differs, the final results are the same. Male figures oppress women to a point where a confusion between reality and fantasy is seen. Oppression through the lives and stories of Joyce Oats and Charlotte Perkins Gilman will be examined thoroughly, and the types of oppression will be discussed.
In the short stories “Where are you going, where have you been? ” and “The yellow wallpaper,” both Joyce Carol Oates and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, portrayed female characters that are oppressed and are unable to distinguish reality from fantasy. Each author had an artistic technique in portraying oppression. In the “yellow wall paper” Jane is found to obey all of her husband’s wishes. Due to the fact that her husband was superior to her, Jane had no choice but to follow his orders.
For example, when the couple rented out the house for the summer so they can relax, Jane wanted to stay in a specific room, but because her husband’s disapproval of that room, Jane instead stayed in the room that her husband wanted. Due to the oppression that Jane was facing, it is believed that she started to find her independent self by creating this fantasy world in her head about a woman trapped in the wall. By the end, her depiction of reality and fantasy became much distorted, that she believed that the woman that she has been imagining in the wall is finally free.
The confusion between reality and fantasy portrays how most women felt in 1800’s, trapped, and unable to voice their rights and opinions, so in order to feel a bit of freedom, imagination was the only tool to independence. It is believed that due to the fact that Jane was mistreated and was not properly taken care of, her mental illness increased. The type of oppression that is seen here is more a gender oppression, where women are not allowed to express their opinions, because they did not matter.
In “where are you going, where have you been? ” Joyce oats portrays Connie as a strong independent woman that knows what she wants. Her confidence is only shaken when a man tries to oppress her in a sexual way. It is then when Connie realizes that she was not as strong as she thought she was. Due to the panic, Connie started to confuse reality from fantasy. Arnold Friend, takes advantage of Connie’s naive personality, and tries to control her by threatening her.
Joyce Oats describes oppression here as a form of sexual oppression, where woman are constantly being sexually assaulted because society has portrayed and symbolized women as sexual items. Both short stories describe two different men, but both men have similar qualities. In the “yellow wall paper”, John who is Jane’s husband is characterized as a man of power, who ignores Jane’s opinions, and the severity of her illness. Jane is placed in a room that she did not choose. The room represents a prison of some sort.
John may not represent an evil person in an obvious way, but his oppressive treatment towards Jane is clearly noted. In “where are you going, where have you been? ” Arnold who was stalking Connie, is characterized as a villain. He uses the technique of threatening to pursue Connie to do as he pleases. By taking advantage of the fact that Connie is a young woman, he attacks her and uses her in a sexual way. Both male figures represent male dominant society where women are perceived as weak, stupid, and are easily taken advantage of.
John did not want to recognize Jane’s deep mental illness because women did not matter, and Arnold believed that because he is a man, he is able to easily take advantage of a young woman. Both men are a representation of how society views women, in the assumption that women are weak and are easily controlled. Due to male oppression, both women had a distorted image of reality and fantasy. In conclusion, “the yellow wall paper” and “Where are you going, where have you been? ” both portray that the female protagonist is oppressed by male dominant society.
Jane in “the yellow wallpaper” is imprisoned in a room by her husband, ignored and mistreated. Connie in “where are you going, where are you from? ” is imprisoned in her mind by Arnold who used her naive personality into controlling her. These stories show that women have little or no importance in society, and are constantly oppressed in a variety of ways. This oppression is the reason why many of these woman run into the fantasy world, and have a difficult time differentiating between reality and fantasy.