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The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman undeniably should be the winner for the best American short story of all time. The remaining candidates are Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hills like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway, and Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin, which arguably does not satisfy the criteria to win as remarkably as The Yellow Wallpaper. The Yellow Wallpaper illuminates a spotlight on modern themes such as self-identity and the role of women in marriage. The intense controversy of the story puts it ahead of the competing short stories because of the candidate stories’ lack of density.
The Yellow Wallpaper, having feminist themes, and could be considered feminist literature, was published at a time where the universal beliefs were extremely volatile when introduced to feminism, an ideology that violently clashed with the most commonly accepted beliefs. That goes to show how powerful The Yellow Wallpaper is; The Yellow Wallpaper’s sole context in itself delivers a timeless message and theme that address the themes of self-identity in marriage.
To begin, it is necessary to review how Perkins Gilman delivers her feminist messages in her short story. In the short story, Jane struggles with the constraint of John’s belittling of her problems. John forbidding Jane to self-express reinforces the idea that he insists he knows what is best for her in the process of neglecting her psychosis. It is read, “I don’t know why I should write this. I don’t want to. I don’t feel able.
And I know John would think it absurd. But I must say what I feel and think in some way—it is such a relief!”. (CITE) This quotation accurately reveals the theme of self-identity, and Jane’s struggle with her self identity and self-expression may be a subject reader of many ages can connect upon. The point is that The Yellow Wallpaper’s theme of self-identity will never die out, being that humans constantly have internal conflicts and external conflicts that may suppress their ability to express themselves and even get to know themselves. This is award-worthy material because of not just how it can connect to people from all time periods but also because in the present age, self-identity and self-expression are becoming a spectacle of the media in its normalization. To add, the feminist theme of women’s role in the family is changing in modern times. Aforementioned, the sole context of Perkins Gilman’s choice to introduce feminist themes is in itself honorable, and what is also significant is that as the theme of self-identity, the role of women throughout history will always be a topic to remark on.
Historically, women have typically been subservient in their roles to men. Not only in the present era but lately in the past few centuries, the role of women in families has been pushed to change. The digression from gender roles has become more apparent in today’s age after centuries of feminist movements. John assumes his superior intuition, intelligence, and helpfulness which suppresses Jane’s self-identity and self-expression. Jane states, “I tried to have a real earnest reasonable talk with him the other day, and tell him how I wish he would let me go and make a visit to Cousin Henry and Julia. But he said I wasn’t able to go. . . . I did not make out a very good case for myself, for I was crying before I had finished.”. (CITE) This quotation outlines Jane’s subordination to John and how Jane is subservient to John’s advice. Jane resorts to expressing herself in the confinement of her mind, and her secret journal. The outcome of the suppression of what Jane needs to let out leads to her psychosis. This can prove a larger and more powerful message, which is the long-lasting effect of the patriarchal and volatile society. In essence, the short story does an outstanding job addressing the necessity of self-expression and identity and the obstacles that need to be crossed, which is the accepted subordination of women in many aspects of life.
In addition, taking a look at Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne, a clear theme is a sin. While the theme of sin may be timeless as well as The Yellow Wallpaper’s themes, this theme is too commonly used throughout many works of literature. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter has very closely related themes of sin due to the punitive Puritan faith that set the theme for many works of literature during Puritan times. There are many works of literature that show that everybody sins, and some may argue that Young Goodman Brown executes this theme exceptionally, deserving an award. The sole fact that there is an abundance of literature that has the same theme – more than feminist literature having alike themes, makes it difficult to differentiate Young Goodman Brown from other stories with similar themes. The Yellow Wallpaper’s odd story of Jane going into literal psychosis makes it unique, while Young Goodman Brown’s uniqueness fails in terms of theme and delivery of theme due to Hawthorne’s common style of writing about the punitive Puritan faith and sin.
Likewise, Hills like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway is a powerful piece of literature, outlining the fluctuating power of different types of communication. Yet this short story also falls short of award-winning material. The fact that it is a short-short story may not be a plausible excuse to give the award to The Yellow Wallpaper, however, the short story is so short, and its length chimes into the delivery of the theme of the changeable strength of communication. The short story about an American and his girlfriend does
In conclusion, The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman deserves to win the best American short story of all time because of its unprecedented controversial themes of self-identity and the subordinate role of women in marriage.
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