The Men Who Loved Their Wives
The main characters in Charlotte Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wall Paper” and Bobbie Ann Mason’s “Shiloh” are comparable on account of the uneasy consciences that determine their relationship with their spouses and general perceptions on gender matters. The character of Leroy in Shiloh is disturbed by the complicated relationship that follows the increased awareness of the true nature of his wife just like the woman character in the “Yellow Wall Paper” is unsettled by the stifling control that she received from her husband. In “Shiloh”, the author brings out Leroy as a man who in unsteady regarding the awareness of the intricate relationship that defines his marriage (Mason 78).
Leroy reaches a moment of awakening when he realizes that his wife for many years does not actually reciprocate the nature of love and affection which he extends towards her. This realization plunges him into lengthy moments of reflections regarding the sustainability of their marriage given the obvious differences that mark their lives. His reflections are brought out as an attempt by his masculine worldview to invade into the deeper recesses of feminine mindset in order to uncover the structural basis that informs their tastes and preferences in life (Mason 71). However, Leroy appears to come to the humbling truth that his wife is not the simplistic object that could easily be understood through the patriarchal biases and methods of thought. Just like the woman character in the “Yellow Wall Paper”, the character of Leroy’s wife is brought out as particularly rebellious to the social order that is crafted along the designs of patriarchy.
The obvious truth in this story is that the gender divides that separates the male characters from their female colleagues who are brought out in a manner that illustrates the refusal of the female gender to be confined within systems that have been designed with subliminal structures to limit their self-expression. Both women are eager to define their identities as separate from those of their husbands’. One notable similarity between the two men in both stories is that their well-meaning gestures towards their wives are repulsed. Despite the love and affection that Leroy extends towards his wife, she still insists on leading an independent and separate life and does not wish to stay around him any longer. Her longing for solitude could only be interpreted in terms of a deep desire for freedom in a space that is beyond the reach and control of her loving husband.
Similarly, the woman character in the “Yellow Wall Paper” defies the well-meaning gestures and actions of her physician husband and yearns for a life that is free of his stifling control. The strange and weird pattern she observes on the wall paper in the bedroom symbolizes the rhythms of oppression that the patriarchal society consistently directs towards the women folk (Gilman 28). From this novel, it is obvious that both women are eager to leave the domestic space that defines their social roles. The desire to seek for an alternative place away from home is informed by the subconscious need to destroy the patriarchal structures that are resident within the domestic space.
The domestic environment and marriage are considered as places where women’s selfhood is finally conquered and subdued. The lead characters in both texts are united in the struggle to understand and liberate themselves from the stifling control of oppressive systems. Mason’s story uses the male character to reveal his frustrations in the wake of a resurgent feminine struggle in his domestic space. On the other hand, Gilman’s story runs from the point of view of the woman whose psychological state of mind becomes a weapon sharpened against the patriarchal edifice.