Early Twentieth Century Literature: Perkings, Chopin, Fitzgerald Essay

When studying gender roles in history, one will find that females are often depicted in similar ways no matter the era or region of study. Even when comparing the industrialized, early, twentieth century to today’s progressive era, there are striking similarities between female roles. We can see that over the course of the twentieth century, the qualities of loyalty and honesty have decreased in marriages due to the treatment of the two main female roles as depicted literature. The first was the role of the wife. The wife was often portrayed as a housekeeper and a nanny. Dull in appearance, there was no aesthetic beauty to this typical female. The other main role was the “other woman.” The more mysterious and promiscuous character, this woman portrayed the other part of the female population. Both of these types of characters are composites that portrayed the average, disposable female while how they were treated conveyed the general handling of females in the early, twentieth century.Right before the start of the twentieth century, in 1892, Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote “The Yellow Wallpaper.” This short story revealed the beliefs and values that people would have when transitioning into the new century. In the short, the narrator was diagnosed with depression although she believed the diagnosis to be false. Yet living in a time of patriarchy, “If…one’s own husband [assured] friends and relatives that there [was] nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression…what [was] one to do?” (“The Yellow Wallpaper”). By having submitted to the will of her husband, the narrator created a tragic ending for herself, as many other women have done. As the story progressed, she forced herself into disease and closer to insan…

…dent woman. Once again, the qualities of honesty and loyalty had been destroyed and the possibility of a positive, third main role for females had been shattered.

The early, twentieth century was not a positive time for females and marital relationships. As depicted through countless novels, there were two main female roles in society and neither created much opportunity for females. Whether a woman was a humble housewife or a mysterious mistress, there was controversy in every aspect of both roles. These roles also placed females in oppressive relationships that almost always decreased the qualities of honesty and loyalty that are necessary in relationships. From the beginning of the twentieth century all the way up until now, the treatment of females thrust into these roles has caused controversy and problems in countless marriage and all throughout our society.

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