All good stories convey a message. Gilman’s main message seemed eager to bring to light gender role issues and stereotypes of her time period. An average relationship of her time generally included a working middleclass husband and a house keeping wife. The wife normally did as she was told by her husband and took care of any family needs. Being a famous writer, Gilman did not exactly have an average role in society in her time as a female. From an oppressed perspective, having experienced firsthand gender expectations that Gilman mocks stereotypical gender roles within the Yellow Wallpaper.
In this story, the husband (John) works as a doctor, a working class man who can make the money for his family like he is expected to do. His wife stays home and tends to whatever needs to be tended to in the house. Being a doctor as well as the man of the family, John knows what is best for him and the rest of his family. These were “normal” gender roles that were to be expected of back then. His wife succumbs to a sickness in his eyes, being some sort of mental disorder.
With his male dominance/authority over his wife he has her rest in the upstairs nursery room so she can get the rest she so desperately needs. Here the woman is expected to listen and do as she is told by her husband and to be expected to do in the eyes of society. Being a nursery it seems as if John is treating his wife childlike. Some more evidence of this degrading speak is evident later in the text. For example he refers to his wife as a “little goose” and “little girl”. He goes on to say “don’t go walking about like that, you’ll get cold”. By this point he is treating his wife as if she were a wee toddler unable to care for herself.
In addition to the unethical treatment she receives, she becomes increasingly bored on her part. In effect she writes to pass the time. But since being the more submissive partner to her husband she is forced to hide her work from him and others. This is supported by her stating “I must not let her find me writing”. The fact that others will not agree with her passion to write is sexist. Eventually she loses her sanity from the isolation. This is ironic due to the fact that the man/doctor was wrong with his diagnosis and eventual treatment for his wife.
Nowadays gender roles are completely different. There are a plethora of jobs that employ both men and women. Back then the thought of women working an actual job was a jest. Unlike the story’s setting, women currently have the right to vote. We even have women in high positions of government today which was unthinkable back then. Gilman was scolded for writing in her time but now famous writers like Stephanie Meyer are praised for their writings. This alludes that there are much more equal gender roles today than there ever were back in Gilman’s era of living. Women overall are very equal to men now but it wasn’t always that way in the past.