The theme of female liberation can be clearly identified and analysed in The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and The Awakening by Kate Chopin.
Both texts adopt a markedly feminist bias, narrated from the point of view of a female protagonist who struggles against the restrictive conventions of a misogynistic society, before finally breaking free through separation from the thinking world. Gilman does this in The Yellow Wallpaper through insanity and Chopin does the same via suicide in The Awakening. It seems that both protagonists in the novels must resort to extreme measures to achieve female liberation and empowerment.
A comparison between these two texts can reveal a similarity in the oppressiveness by the predominant male figures. When the narrator in The Yellow Wallpaper begins to write about her obsession with the wallpaper and Edna moves out of her husband’s home, it represents moments of independence in these women’s stories. This independence, though supposedly temporary, are the first tastes of freedom that the women enjoy, fueling their craving for complete liberation. By casting such stereo-typically male figures as husbands of the protagonists, both Chopin and Gilman attack marriage as an institution that restricts women. In the context of both texts, society functions with the understanding that the wide is always subservient to the demands of the husband. To the husbands, their wives are fragile beings who must be coddled, people who hold little worth of their own.
The women are flawed through their mental instability, thus making the stories skewed through the eyes of an unreliable narrator. However, both women would rather forsake sanity and life than endure the hardships of oppression. This could be because separation from the conscious world is the only way to achieve complete liberation in an oppressive, male-focused society.
It’s fair to argue that the choices made by an emotionally or mentally unstable character does not represent the entire female demographic. However, Edna and the narrator are ordinary women who inherit their flaws because of their environment; the lust and insanity are products of their mistreatment.