The Awakening

Womanhood in The Awakening and The Yellow Wall-Paper

Society of the 19th Century gave a heightened meaning to what it means to be a woman. According to the commonly known "code of true womanhood," women were supposed to be docile, domestic creatures, whose main concerns in life were to be the raising of their children and submissiveness to their husbands. Kate Chopin's The Awakening and Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wall-Paper capture, in their respective works, two women who have turned down these expected roles, and, consequently, suffer because of it. The husbands of these women, entirely because they stand to represent patriarchal society, are a great deal to blame for the "condition" of their wives. In an examination of these works, this essay will discuss the role played by the husbands, as well as what these female writers might be saying about men in general in their writing.

The very first words Chopin ascribes to Leonce Pontellier point out his paternalistic view of his wife: "What folly! To bathe at such an hour in such heat!...You are burnt beyond recognition..." (Chopin, 44). Clearly, Edna Pontellier's husbands looks at her as if she is his property. The reader comes to see Leonce as a fiercely conventional,...

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