The women from the prehistoric times are consistently facing the problem of proper treatment. There are debates, research 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 culture, 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 community considers the women as weaker than of male members of the community. 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 explored through the number of writing. In the English literature, the era considered as the most uncertain 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 males mostly played the major or the influential role. 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 homemakers. 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 more significant 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 affirmative 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 (Fisher, 511). 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 writer exemplified the female character named as Nora as men never sacrifice their integrity. On the contrary, women have to sacrifice for males (Williams, 112). Nora has abandoned her love to marry a wealthy man. However, Torvalds has no respect and honor for her wife. It was an advantage for Nora to be a wife of a wealthy man. However, the critical 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 credit without the permission of husband. She saves the life of her husband by managing the issue of the loan. The males including the Krogstad who had given her credit betrayed her. 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 (Lynch, 297). She realizes and believes that Nanny will be the kind mother. She left her children for their best interest. With the ideas and conversation of Doctor Rank one of the leading 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 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 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 (Marin, 220). Other than the writing that explores the actual face of Victorian and Romantic societies, certain short stories 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 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 a protest against the oppression by the professional staff towards the women.
Gilman, the writer of the short story, reveals that the patriarchal society restricted the role of the American women in the 19th century. The husband while locking his wife inside the room that is the place not for humans acting that woman 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 women in the dominant male 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 mental stimulation in a whole day. After passing some time inside the closed room, the women named as Jane became overstressed and attacked by the psychological illness that is called as the hallucination (Barker 56). 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 sick culture of the 19th century.
The yellow wallpaper is an example that illustrates the misdiagnosis complaint of a woman whose life was destroyed by her husband. The writer of the short story has also faced the same problem of mental illness and depression. Many writers, in fact, consider the story as her 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 culture.
The writer depicted John who was the husband of the women in the story as faithful to his wife. He 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 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 looked the wife who was wheeling and stepping over his body (Wilkes, 95). The writing of the story was a significant 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 growing role. The freedom of expression of the women was severely halted and humiliated by the dominant male culture. The feministic critics have applauded the work. They also term it as one of the significant 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 dominant male 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 critical 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 part of male gender of the community.
Barker-Benfield, G. J. “Mary Wollstonecraft: eighteenth-century commonwealthwoman.” Mary Wollstonecraft. Routledge, 2017. 47-67.
Fisher, Laura R. “Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Novel Aesthetics.” Modern Language Quarterly 78.4 (2017): 491-515.
Lynch, Gerard, and Carl Vogel. “Chasing the ghosts of Ibsen: A computational stylistic analysis of drama in translation.” arXiv preprint arXiv: 1501.00841 (2015).
Marin, Brigitte. “Poverty, Relief, and Hospitals in Naples in the 18th and 19th Centuries.” Health Care and Poor Relief in 18th and 19th Century Southern Europe. Routledge, 2017. 208-228.
Wilkes, Joanne. Women Reviewing Women in Nineteenth-Century Britain: The Critical Reception of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, and George Eliot. Routledge, 2016: (53-159)
Williams, Joan C. “Deconstructing Gender .” Feminist Legal Theory. Routledge, 2018. 95-123.