The women from the prehistoric times are consistently facing the problem of proper treatment. There are debates, researchers and the discussion of what the role of women should be in the human society. Since the early times of its creation, the women are continuously confronting unequal treatment. From the birth of humans to the Greek society it was humiliated in different ways. Similarly, in the 18th and 19th-century society, the treatment of the women was same as done before. The society considers the women as weaker than men. All the domestic works performed by the women in the pre-industrial times. The females were rated as the second class humans along with restrictions on the outside activity which includes voting, education, and related activities.
The society of the 18th and the 19th century was explored through the number of writing. In the English literature, the era was considered as the most problematic times for the women to perform their due functions and the roles. The Romantic and the Victorian societies follow the treatment with women which was going on from prehistoric times. The major or the influential role was mostly played by the males. These include the hunting, plowing and other hard work. On the contrary, women were subjected to stay at home and look after the children. They have to perform duties mostly as housewives. Similarly, there was no concept of education for the women. Males and the patriarchal society uses women to fulfill their needs. The society was also not expecting any bigger or revolutionary role from the females’ members of their communities.
The women were also placed at home with the concept that they are unable to perform any positive action as a help to their husbands. However, there were certain reforms in the Victorian era like the revolution in the industrial sector, the voice against the poverty and the development in the scientific research. The development of the Victorian and Romantic societies did not place considerable effects on the lives of women and their commitment was restricted within their families. They were not allowed to participate in the activities other than those that are limited by the males of the society.
The literature and the writings of both eras eighteen and nineteen century reveal the real condition of the women along with their functions in the societies. The Doll House a play was written by the Henrik Ibsen unfold the bleak picture of the women of the society. The sacrificial role held by the women among all the classes of the community. In the play, the female character named as Nora was exemplified by the writer as men never sacrifice their integrity. On the contrary, women have to sacrifice for males. Nora has abandoned her love to marry a rich man. However, Torvalds has no respect and honor for her wife. It was an advantage for Nora to be a wife of a rich man. However, the important aspect is the burden that placed on the shoulders of Nora.
The society dictates to the Nora that she must accept the dominance of the Torvalds as her husband. Her husband issues decree and shows the superiority towards her without realizing the real condition of the wife. The rich man never accepted the idea that his wife borrows loan from the blackmailer Krogstad. She must work secretly to repay the said loan but should not have informed her husband. It was a crime in the society of Nora to take the loan without the permission of husband. She saves the life of her husband by managing the issue of the loan. She was betrayed by the males including the Krogstad who had given her the loan. The reaction and the motivation towards deception and the worse attitude of the Torvalds left her vulnerable to Krogstad to blackmail her.
The abandonment of the children by the Nora could be interpreted as the act of self-sacrifice. She had a love for her children but she leaves them because of the fear of corrupting them by the husband. She realizes and believes that Nanny will be the good mother. She left her children for their best interest. With the ideas and conversation of Doctor Rank one of the main character of the play, Torvalds restricted her wife not to visit their children after the deceit. The husband has the fear that she might corrupt his children. Such type of feeling and the action shows the actual position of the eighteenth-century society. If the same act of deceit could happen by the Torvalds he will be free from any kind of restriction.
The text of the play shows the actual role and the emotions of women of pre industrialist society. “From now on forget happiness. Now it is about saving the remains, the wreckage, the appearance”. These words were spoken by the Torvalds towards the Nora in the Act III of the play. The conversation and the thoughts of Torvalds reveal his greed and pride over her wife. These remarks come after the Torvalds learn about the forgery and the exposition by the Krogstad about the Nora. The husband has no attention and thinking of the emotions of the wife instead he was more focused towards to look as dignified and honorable person among his colleagues. It also shows the value and worth of the women in the society. Happiness according to the Torvalds is not important than his personality and his personal values.
The crime of the Nora was for her husband. However, the words and the text of the play shows that the expectation of the gallant reaction from the husband of Nora was a foolish dream. Husband wanted to ensure his reputation must be secured no matter what the price Nora will pay. Torvalds proves that he is the real picture of his society that support only the roles and actions of the males and humiliated their women. Other than the writing that explores the actual face of Victorian and Romantic societies there are certain short stories that depicted the worthless sacrifices and humiliation of the women. Like the play Doll House, there is another story that unfolded the real role of women. In The Yellow Wallpaper, the American writer Charlotte Perkins has beautifully described the feministic approach.
The writer in the yellow wallpaper unfolded the attitudes of the 19th-century society towards the women. The physician husband of the women rented an old mansion in order to pass the summer. The couple lifting other rooms started living in the upstairs nursery. The competent physician as an intervention process for the ill health wife to stay away from the working and live in the room. The scratch floor of the nursery along with the barred windows was for the women who were already facing temporary depression after the birth of her child. The narrator of the story reveals that most of the damage was already reach to the sick women. The description of the wallpaper inside the room smears on the clothes of women who were locked up. The story was actually a protest against the oppression by the professional staff towards the women.
Gilman, the writer of the short story reveals that role of the American women in the 19th century was restricted by the patriarchal society. The husband while locking his wife inside the room which is the place not for humans acting that women are weak and mentally fragile. At that time those propagating for the women rights believes that it would be a manifestation for males’ regarding the roles they are allowing to a woman in the male dominant society. The women of the 19th century were also restricted from writing because it was a fear that they will get the certain identity. The women in the short story were the patient with depression. The husband of the female was a physician who prescribes her the rest cure.
The rest cure that was prescribed by the doctor included the life to live as domestic as possible. The women were other than yellow paper was not allowed to touch even the pen and other related things. She was also restricted from any kind of mental stimulation in a whole day. After passing some time inside the closed room the women named as Jane became overstressed and attack by the psychological illness that is called as a hallucination. The treatment of the patriarchal society has made healthy women as mad. The remaining functions and the senses of the women destroyed and she became the burden on the poor society of 19th century.
The yellow wallpaper is an example that illustrates the misdiagnosis complaint of women whose life was destroyed by her husband. The writer of the short story has also faced the same problem of mental illness and depression. The story is in fact considered by many writers as her own reflection of what happened to her. The publication of the yellow wallpaper was also interested in providing the assessment to those hospitals that diagnose the women of patriarchal society through the rest cure measures. The story also emphasizes the gender practices that were prevalent at the time of 19th-century society.
John who was the husband of the women in the story was depicted by the writer as faithful to his wife. He actually misunderstood the mental illness of her wife. His misunderstanding reveals that the practices of the society against the women were frequent. On the end day of the summer, the women lock herself in order to strip the remains of the wallpapers. When the physician opens the door he found her creeping around the room, circling and touching the wallpapers. The husband became faint and looking the wife who was circling and stepping over his body. The writing of the story was a great contribution of the Gilman, who unfolded the actual picture of the society regarding the treatment of the women. The story also reveals that women in the American society were not free in performing any progressive role. The freedom of expression of the women was severely halted and humiliated by the male dominant society. The feministic critics have not only applauded the work but also term it as one of the great contribution of Gilman towards the rights of the women.
Concluding the discussion on the treatment of the women in the late 18th and early 19th-century society it is worth mentioning that women were severely humiliated by the male dominant societies. The literature of both centuries explores that there was the increased number of restrictions on the role and functions of the women. The depiction of the women as a weaker and limited gender is one of the key factors that was discussed by many writers. Women’s in the old centuries and still today are striving for their parallel role in the society. However, it seems difficult for the women to take over the role of male gender of the society.
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