Free Essay Sample: Gender Identity and Roles in The Yellow Wallpaper

Published: 2022-02-17
Free Essay Sample: Gender Identity and Roles in The Yellow Wallpaper
Type of paper:  Research paper
Categories:  Gender Feminism The Yellow Wallpaper
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1627 words
14 min read

"The Yellow Wallpaper" is an insightful piece on horror fiction that is based on a gothic genre that takes a cautionary approach to what supposed "rest cures" lead to the mental state of a patient. It has numerous themes that are centered on a story of a lady who was given the "rest cure" but ended up seeing a woman creeping out of her wallpaper (Schorkhuber, 2008). One of the most potent themes in this piece is the oppressive nature of gender roles in a community. In this paper, I will review this theme and evaluate how it is portrayed in today's society. Women in the late 19 century, were mostly defined by their roles in social constructs such as marriage and hence were referred to primarily as mothers, wives, caregivers, and housekeepers. In "The Yellow Wallpaper" the narrator is seen to be defined more by her gender than her illness. Men in her environment frame this desire as an illness and she is confined in her former nursery (Mackey & Coney, 2000). Her mental illness became her only escape from her husband's expectations.

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Literature Review

In today's society, gender inequality remains the main violations of women's rights. Empowerment of women in families, politics and economic opportunities is still a hanging issue although steps to reduce such inequalities are in place (Schorkhuber, 2008). These steps still fail to address the problem wholesomely; hence the analysis of patriarchal norms that lead to gender-based social roles of women is seen as a viable approach to the study of this matter.

In many western societies, today gender has become a defining identity. It holds a central position in the way that individuals interact in their social and cultural meaning at each level of their life. From birth, people with different genders are dressed differently and often associated with different behavioral characteristics today. This depicts the role that gender has played in shaping the society in terms of its interactions and how people are identified. Interaction with social constructs in society often leads to the evolution of gender. In the society today, gender may seem as a result of psychological imprinting, language, and social leading. The labeling of masculine and feminine characteristics has been challenged by numerous traditional psychological theories. In many studies in the past, women have been considered deviant and often with many variances as compared to their male counterparts. This mainly describes the society's position in the viewing of women today. In a world that is continuously evolving, many factors affect the society's perception of women. For instance, as in the book, the yellow wallpaper, a woman is expected to be submissive to men. Such a scenario has raised questions in gender equality and how effective gender policies can be created to deal with unequal opportunities relating to gender.

Male dominance in many structures in the society is not a new phenomenon. In the world today, women are offered the same opportunities, but some opt not to pursue leadership positions. Even though gender equality has been integrated into legislature and institutions today, many fail to understand the way it worlds. Research shows that about 41% of men agree that gender equality has been achieved in Ukraine only (Olsen, 2017). This study also found that 29% of them acknowledged the importance of gender equality in the society. The public awareness ratio of those who know the facets of gender equality to those who do not is often irregular. This irregularity has led to the rise of feminism in many regions of the world basically to fight for the rights of women and ensure that they are treated equality as compared to their male counterparts. Furthermore, many men are less aware of the importance of their attitudes towards gender equality and some lacked answers to some of the questions.

The question of whether women's equitableness to both public and political positions has often been debated and has had very weak support from the society. Fine-Davis (2016) found that over 75% of women believe that women in the society could make as good leaders as any male today. Leadership opportunities are available, but most women in society have been programmed to deny the pursuit of such roles since some of them are confined to their roles in social structures such as marriages and families. As in the book, the yellow wallpaper, a person's environment, especially a woman is affected by the perceptions that other individuals have on them.

The low representation of women in high paying jobs is an easily recognizable factor in the society today. In many regions of the world, women representation in parliaments and political positions is averagely less than 12%. A study by Olah, Kotowska & Ritcher (2018) found that half of the respondents felt that men are better leaders that women in the society. This figure explains the role of social expectations in defining gender roles in the society today. Based on a study by Clow & Ricciardelli (2011), women represent only 30% of managers in business and enterprises in legal entities. Based on the perceptions in this study, it was found that many 40% of the respondents felt that men are better businesspersons as compared to women, 51% thought that men are better political leaders, 81% felt that women and male should be paid equally. From this same study, 41% of the respondents thought that men do not know how to take care of babies.

Gaps in Literature

Current literature fails to review the role of the developmental environment of a person and how it affects their perceptions of gender roles in the society. For instance, there is little research done to investigate the role of the childhood environment and how it affects a person's perception on women or gender at large (Olsen, 2017). Furthermore, the role of educational background is often overlooked in studies investigating gender roles in the society. Future research should, therefore, review these two facets and compared the results.


As in the book, The Yellow Wallpaper, defining gender roles is a society that reduces the potential for which people, mostly women, can thrive. For instance, the oppressive nature of gender roles prevented the women in pursuing her interests and muffled her roles as a mother and wife. As in the society today, gender stereotypes reduce potential in women's ability to seek higher opportunities due to fear of rejection or failure (Schorkhuber, 2008). The society, therefore, makes a woman less powerful as compared to a man. This is however not the case since women are equally as strong as men and have the prowess to lead and make their own decisions based on their understanding of the society.

It has been found that the traditional attitude towards women drive the widespread practice of violence in many homes today. The notion that a woman should be confined to marriage and provide social functions in a house makes male dominance a factor that motivates violence. Domestic violence is a threat to women's rights, and policies have been put in place to manage the lack of awareness of gender equality around the world (Fine-Davis, 2016). Harmful practices relating to violence in domestic settings have also been found to be multifaceted and mainly thrive in environments where stereotyped sex and gender-based roles are created. In the book, as the woman reviews the wallpaper, the complexity of her mind is revealed. She is seen to have a strong analysis that is based on facts. This potential is however ignored by the people around her. As in the society today, making fact fewer conclusions about gender has somewhat been a common phenomenon in certain regions such as Africa. The continent still struggles with numerous cases of domestic violence and oppression of women. Hyper-feminine individuals are more often going to be involved in violence with their partners. Such expectations and perceptions of the female gender make the society seem less interested in upholding equal opportunities.

In the book, as the woman frees the woman in the wallpaper, the narrator metaphorically analyses the nature of marriage, and oppression that hold her (Schorkhuber, 2008). This book ends with the "mad" woman freeing herself from the oppression and expectations that the society by herself. It was not by the help of the people around her but by her insanity which was her only remaining choice for freedom. This scene is the same today. Women are still fighting for better opportunities and rights. Some of these opportunities are met with sacrifices that need intervention from the society.


"The Yellow Wallpaper" is an insightful piece on horror fiction that is based on a gothic genre that takes a cautionary approach to what supposed "rest cures" lead to the mental state of a patient. This patient being a woman, this piece provides an insightful reading on how women were viewed in the society and the kind of roles they played (Mackey & Coney, 2000). Much of the book is centered on how the woman is perceived, and it helps in the understanding of particular gender-related issues in today's society.


Mackey, W. C., & Coney, N. S. (2000). Gender Roles, Traditions, and Generations to Come: TheCollision of Competing Interests and the Feminist Paradox. Hauppauge, NY: NovaPublishers.

Schorkhuber, V. (2008). Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper". An analysis.Munich, Germany: GRIN Verlag.

Clow, K. A., & Ricciardelli, R. (2011). Women and Men in Conflicting Social Roles: Implications from Social Psychological Research. Social Issues and Policy Review, 5(1), 191-226. doi:10.1111/j.1751-2409.2011.01030.x

Fine-Davis, M. (2016). Attitudes to gender roles. Changing gender roles and attitudes to family formation in Ireland. doi:10.7765/9781526100672.00009

Olsen, D. A. (2017). Flutes and Gender Roles. University of Illinois Press. doi:10.5406/illinois/9780252037887.003.0004

Olah, L. S., Kotowska, I. E., & Richter, R. (2018). The New Roles of Men and Women and Implications for Families and Societies. A Demographic Perspective on Gender, Family, and Health in Europe, 41-64. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-72356-3_4

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