28 June 2010
Expression of Oppression In the short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the protagonist battles against her unease of the wallpaper of her temporary bedroom. The heroine, wife of a prominent doctor, suffers from a condition that her overpowering husband diagnoses as temporary nervous depression. In “Sweat,” a short story written by Zora Neale Hurston, the protagonist endures her fear of snakes, stimulated by her aggravating husband. Delia, the wife of Syskes, struggles with her fallen marriage and its repercussions. Both the heroines of “Sweat” and “The Yellow Wallpaper” experience oppression caused by their husbands and role as a submissive subservient wife. Sexism has been a universal type of oppression since civilization. It is mainly caused by the strength that a man is structurally capable of than a women which leads to violence and forces women to be subservient. The difference in strength and capability of violence forms the patriarchy which is a very common form of hierarchy since biblical times. Traditions survive through time and the patriarchy still exists in the modern world. In some points in history, this allows men to be more credible, powerful and free. In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the imbalanced marriage between the heroine and John worsens her condition. Because women are implausible to men, the heroine’s self-diagnosis of her condition is discredited because “If a physician of high standing, and one’s own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression – a slight hysterical tendency – what is one to do? My brother is also a physician, and also of high standing, and he says the same thing” (Gilman 16-17). Because two men in her family prescribe the protagonist an inaccurate treatment, she cannot choose to do what pleases her and what she believes will relieve her of the condition. The protagonist even accepts the fact that her husband does not seriously consider her thoughts because “John laughs at [her], of course, but one expects that in marriage” (16). He belittles her and her thoughts and talks to her like an ignorant child by calling her names such as “a blessed little goose,” and “little girl” (19, 23). Not only is John a male but also a doctor which makes the protagonist feel more oppressed.
He believes that her whims and fancies are the cause of the slight hysterical tendency and refuses to allow her to even think about her condition. When the heroine suggested that she was only better in physical health, John “looked at [her] with such a stern, reproachful look that [she] could not say another word” (23). She is a prisoner in her thoughts and actions in front of John and society. To show that she is better, she “take pains to control [her]self – before him, at least, and that makes [her] very tired” (17). Her writing makes her feel better yet she is not allowed to write because John believes that writing will degrade her health. By writing, the protagonist improves her condition by using it as a method to escape John’s oppression but when John comes, she “must put this away, - he hates to have [her] write a word” (18). John’s disregard of his wife’s self-diagnosis shows that a woman’s credibility does not even equal a patient’s first-hand account of their symptoms discussion with a doctor. Since doctors are supposed to listen to their patients, John clearly does not see his wife as a patient, but as a woman, which is degraded to the level of an ignorant implausible child.
Unlike the heroine in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the protagonist in “Sweat” is violently oppressed by her husband. Delia is submissive to her husband, Syskes, by his abusive actions. Because of the patriarch authoritative power given to Syskes by tradition, “Two months after the wedding, he had given her the first brutal beating” (Hurston 130). For fifteen years, Delia…