Utopia and Dystopia relating to The Yellow Wallpaper and The Cottagette.

The words Utopia and Dystopia are opposites of each other. Utopia relates to a world that is considered to be perfect or ideal while Dystopia refers to a place where the conditions of life are unpleasant. In Gilman short stories the yellow wallpaper and the cottagette we can see where each of these term applies to the protagonist in different ways. In the story yellow wallpaper the narrator introduces us to the mansion in which she is staying for the summer in hopes of recovering from her illness of depression. At first it seems she is perhaps content with the height of romantic felicity” she may experience while at the mansion, she even describes it as” the most beautiful place.” From this  we can relate the idea of utopia as the narrator (perhaps Jane ) expresses the physical appearance of the house and the room in which she stays to that of perfection but it is a facade because as we delve further into the story it is reveal that she is not happy  as she expresses that she would hate it if she had to live in the room long” Now comes the idea of dystopia where the unpleasantness of the room’s yellow wall paper drives her –to say the most– insane. The narrator’s illness deteriorated from a place of utopia to craziness–from the point of view of her husband and his sister’s and perhaps even to the narrator herself, it can be said that she fell into a state of dystopia.

In contrast, the cottagette starts off with description of the cottage, at first I thought it would more relate to the idea of dystopia but as I read on I realized it was more of a utopia for Malda as she expressed how delighted she is with the cottage. Furthermore not only is the appearance of the cottage utopic to Malda but also perhaps the happiness she succumb to in the end. As indicated in the stoty, Malda declares her love for Ford Matthews and is faced with the challenge of proving herself to be a good wife to win his love. She is advised by her friend Lois to make a home, in hearing this she installs a kitchen in hopes of impressing Ford Matthews with her cooking, though Malda is skeptical about this idea as she states “the very beauty of the place is that it never had any house-keeping about it.” Despite Maldas efforts to “make a home” it is revealed that Ford is in fact in love with Malda and all her trouble of impressing him was unnecessary because he in the end confesses his love and wants to marry her regardless of her cooking and domesticity. He loves her because she is young strong and beautiful he even compares her to being sweet and wild like the wild flowers she loves. This, to me is the true idea of utopia to be accepted for who you are and be loved for it without having to prove to be someone you are not. One may consider this a utopia of love for both Malda and Matthews.



One thought on “Utopia and Dystopia relating to The Yellow Wallpaper and The Cottagette.

  1. Jody R. Rosen

    In Women and Economics (1898), Charlotte Perkins Gilman argued against kitchens in homes–and with them, the housework involved–as a way to free women from the domestic sphere. To live without a kitchen, it follows, is to move toward Gilman’s utopian vision:

    “Take the kitchens out of the houses, and you leave rooms which are open to any form of arrangement and extension; and the occupancy of them does not mean “housekeeping.” In such living, personal character and taste would flower as never before; the home of each individual would be at last a true personal expression; and the union of individuals in marriage would not compel the jumbling together of all the external machinery of their lives,–a process in which much of the delicacy and freshness of love, to say nothing of the power of mutual rest and refreshment, is constantly lost. The sense of lifelong freedom and self-respect and of the peace and permanence of one’s own home will do much to purify and uplift the personal relations of life, and more to strengthen and extend the social relations. The individual will learn to feel himself an integral part of the social structure, in close, direct, permanent connection with the needs and uses of society.

    “This is especially needed for women, who are generally considered, and who consider themselves, mere fractions of families, and incapable of any wholesome life of their own. The knowledge that peace and comfort may be theirs for life, even if they do not marry,–and may be still theirs for life, even if they do,–will develop a serenity and strength in women most beneficial to them and to the world. It is a glaring proof of the insufficient and irritating character of our existing form of marriage that women must be forced to it by the need of food and clothes, and men by the need of cooks and housekeepers. We are absurdly afraid that, if men or women can meet these needs of life by other means, they will cheerfully renounce the marriage relation. And yet we sing adoringly of the power of love!

    “In reality, we may hope that the most valuable effect of this change in the basis of living will be the cleansing of love and marriage from this base admixture of pecuniary interest and creature comfort, and that men and women , eternally drawn together by the deepest force in nature, will be able at last to meet on a plane of pure and perfect love. We shame our own ideals, our deepest instincts, our highest knowledge, by this gross assumption that the noblest race on earth will not mate, or, at least, not mate monogamously, unless bought and bribed through the common animal necessities of food and shelter, and chained by law and custom.”


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