Marriage and Divorce in the Story “The Yellow Wallpaper”

The turn of the century views on marriage and divorce was marked by the ongoing liberation of women in home and professional life. While earlier it was appropriate for a woman not to work and do virtually nothing about the house, the turn of the century opened several professions in which women could engage. Moreover, home life underwent significant changes. Women were no longer seen as dependent on a man’s directions but acquired certain freedom. The new perception of a woman brought about an increasing number of divorces that stemmed from the fact that many men were not ready to accept women as equals.

The story “The Yellow Wallpaper” portrays the clash of characters between the man and his wife, which results in the collapse of family life. The husband does not take his wife’s fears and desires seriously, and the wife is too timid to insist. While the main characters love each other, their views on marriage drive them apart. The husband prescribes absolute ‘rest’ to his wife, which later becomes the trigger for her madness. When a person has nothing to do, it may lead to all kinds of fantasies. Indeed, Mitchell (1902) says that “one must vary his routine” to feel motivated and needed. Gilman (1992) found absolute rest and sleep useless when suffering from depression. In the story, the husband’s insistence on ‘rest’ and the woman’s desire to be engaged was on opposite sides of the spectrum; that is why the main characters could not understand each other.

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Thus, it can be said that the turn of the century views on marriage on the one hand drove people apart, but on the other built bridges for better communication. Women were freer to express their ideas and began to play a significant role in the home and professional life. However, in families that did not embrace these changes, the number of divorces soared as women sought more freedom and opportunities for self-expression.

Works Cited

Mitchell, Cilas Weir. “The Rest Cure.” The Washington Post, 1902

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “Why I Wrote the Yellow Wallpaper.” National Library of Medicine, 1992.

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