The main character of Charlotte Gilman’s story, Jennie, lived during a time where the perfect family was an obligation for women. Women were trained to be good housewives, mothers, teachers and nurturers just like the narrator’s sister-in-law. Jennie stays at home to manage chores and take care of the children instead of working on the outside while her husband is out living his best life and engaging in freedom. As a female, one would expect Jennie to be conscious of society’s thoughts and would want her own success rather than living in her husband’s shadow. However, through her narrow-minded actions, she upholds beliefs and expectations in her husband’s absence. Her actions hint that she helps John to control Jane’s behavior. At times, society look at women as someone of little importance or value; however, women do pay attention to the simplest things to make it have value, encountering femininity with a revolt against a male dominated society.
Gilman depicts a marriage in which society roles trap both the narrator and her husband, and these roles condemn them. Gilman represents Jane as inferior rather than an equal to her husband. Early on after the story develops, the narrator complains of the décor of the room, but her husband sees her more of a child than a partner in this moment. The room becomes the real penitentiary being a “colonial mansion . . . a haunted house” rented by John; he calls her names such as “a blessed little goose” and “little girl” when she has difficulty sleeping. Because he identifies himself as the more coherent partner in the marriage, John assumes that he knows more than his wife about her condition. These condescending attitudes of her husband are the reasons why Jane is rebellious. Rather than being coherent equally, John underestimates Jane as “imaginative” or even weak. Though sections of the house were gendered such as the kitchen, the upper section of the house was more confined. Jane describes the location of the house being far, mentioning “It is quite alone, standing well back from the road, quite three miles from the village”. This symbolizes women who are not of society’s expectations will be invisible to the outside world.
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