While reading The Yellow Wallpaper, I found myself predicting what would happen based off our other readings and the reoccurring theme of women being imprisoned by their husbands and society. This was indeed the case with The Yellow Wallpaper but it seemed to have a deeper meaning. I saw many similarities between Virginia Woolf in The Hours and the woman in The Yellow Wallpaper; I thought it was interesting that The Yellow Wallpaper, being a fictional piece, could be compared to a real life woman, struggling insanely to find sanity.
Woolf and the woman in The Yellow Wallpaper, both struggled to find sanity in a society where they were deemed insane and were told what was best for them instead of deciding for themselves. When the woman points out how her husband said “we solely came here on my[her] account, that I[she] was to have perfect rest and all the air I[she] could get,” I immediately thought of the scene of Woolf and her husband at the train station. The woman in The Yellow Wallpaper reminded me of their emotions and how he was isolating her for what he thought was her own good, it seemed that this is what John was doing but in The Yellow Wallpaper we get to hear the woman’s thoughts when put in this position. Being in this position, the women were both looked at as if they were weak and insane. John treated his wife like a young child that did not know what was best for her, he would guide her to do things calling her “little girl”, “my dear” or “my darling”. John also used his title as a doctor to seem more powerful over her and execute his plan to make her better, so to say. Although both women are forced to be isolated from their wants and needs, they both use writing as an outlet. I think this says a lot about their intelligence and how they should be able to make decisions for themselves and live lives that they want to live. They both are told what is best for them, which clearly drives them insane, however if they led the lives they wished to live, they would easily become sane, balanced, and strong.
One major theme that has been present in many of our readings, as well as the movie we are currently watching, is the struggle within women to find their social identity in a world that presents a picture of the perfect, submissive woman that holds it together emotionally. This is a pressing theme in women’s literature especially when written by women. In the works of Chopin and Woolf, this is explicitly depicted.
In Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” we encounter a woman who has clearly been defined by her husband and societal expectations until her husband’s death. This is where Chopin portrays the emotional struggle she comes up against when becoming “free’’! Although she does not get a chance to experience freedom for more than an hour (suggested from the title) in that time frame many emotions are released, exposed and analyzed; she is vulnerable to the societal standard of being a perfect, submissive wife, or widow in her case, that holds it together emotionally. Chopin suggests that this stress can do harm to one’s health through Mrs. Mallard’s death after she sees that her husband is alive.
In the film, “Mrs. Dalloway” based off Virginia Woolf’s novel, we observe the main character, Clarissa’s, internal struggle with holding her emotions together while struggling to balance her social roles and relationships. We also witness Virginia Woolf herself expressing a great need to find her self-identity but being so trapped, just like Mrs. Dalloway. Woolf has a major theme of death and suicide in her writing that could also be seen in the movie. The theme reflects her reaction to the conflict with self-identity; she would rather die than be trapped in a life that she does not wish to live. Thoughts of suicide and discomfort from leading an unsatisfying life led Woolf to write and express her struggle through her characters.
Coming from a woman’s perspective, we can conclude that this internal conflict of social identity can be devastating to a woman’s health, physically and mentally.
Virgina Woolf was an inspiring author for women’s rights activists and people pushing towards equality in education for women during the early 1900s. Her voice is strong and aggressive, encouraging women to take control of their futures as well as their daughter and granddaughter’s future. Her essay “A Room of One’s Own” is a good representation of how far we have come to assimilating ourselves into a world where producing educated men was more important than creating educated women. Woolf focuses on the differences between how women and men were treated in schools during the times of gender inequality.
Woolf turns her writing prompt, women and fiction, into an argumentative essay that begins by exploring the meaning of the prompt and ends in arguing that there was no point to be made but an opinion. Her opinion that “a woman must have money and a room of one’s own to write fiction” guides her essay in describing a woman’s struggle in the world of education. She describes how hard it was to get to the point at which women’s education was at during that time, “what force was behind the plain china off which we dined?… Committees met. Envelopes were addressed… Meetings were held; letters were read out; so-and-so has promised so much; Mr —- wont give a penny”, gathering money to support the cause of women’s education was rare because it was such a controversial topic at the time. But once enough was gathered to support the cause she includes a quote from R. Strachey’s The Cause, “Every penny which could be scraped together was set aside for building, and the amenities had to be postponed”. Including this in Mary Seton’s address on money leaves hope for the progress to be made in furthering equality amongst men and women’s education. Woolf’s aggressive and strongly motivated writing inspires women to fight for their own rights and independence.