Utopia and Dystopia in the two stories by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

First of all, to define the terms “Utopia” and “Dystopia” in a dictionary, Utopia is an ideal place or state which has any visionary system of political or social perfection. Dystopia is the antonym of “Utopia” which is defined as a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding.
Between the two stories “The cottagette” and “The yellow wall paper”, it is obvious which one is which. The cottagette shows us an example of a liberal form of marriage even in an era where people’s attitude toward the gender roles is very conservative. Whereas “The yellow wall paper” shows us how strictly the wife is controlled by her husband.
In the cottagette, Mr. Mathews proposes to Malda a condition in their marriage that she musn’t do house work but must keep doing what she loves as an embroidery artist, and he takes the part of cook which he has been for his life. People’s idea of typical gender roles today is getting more equivocal in their marriage comparing to the setting of the story in early 20th century. People tend to respect what their partners do regardless of their sex in the modern society. However, Mr. Mathews idea must be an unusual surprise. The outcome of their marriage life isn’t written in the story. So we’re only able to imagine if Mr. Mathews suggestion would work well for them. It might be a tough challenge in the time, or might successfully work. In any case, I believe his is the novel approach and respectful thought toward what she does is the very factor of Utopia which actually means the progress of a woman’s right.
On the other hand, in the Yellow Wall Paper, Mr. John’s attitude toward his wife is oppressive about her self-expression, although he really loves her and worries about her as both positions of a husband and a doctor. We could read that he never intended to hurt her from the context. However, I think he doesn’t see her as an person rather as his possession. So she should not have any duties and also any rights. I believe human beings construct their identity and the meaning of their existence through interaction with others in the society or express themselves freely. What if your freedom of expression and exchanges with others are taken away because you are supposed to be an obedient wife and exist as just an accessory to your husband. Nervous breakdown could occur at any moment like it happened to John’s wife.

7 thoughts on “Utopia and Dystopia in the two stories by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

  1. I totally agreed to your inference of “Utopia and Dystopia ” life for woman in each story. In the story “The Yellow Wallpaper” the protagonist is over protected by her husband and the way John take care of her is like his property. John think he can command and control her living because he’s her husband and doctor. It’s another concept like “Patient should alway listen to what the doctor said.” However, that’s not truth because the protagonist totally disagreed that this is the best for her instead it would be better if he let her do her own things. “So I take phosphates or phosphites—whichever it is, and tonics, and journeys, and air, and exercise, and am absolutely forbidden to “work” until I am well again. Personally, I disagree with their ideas. Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good.” (pg1 – column 1 – last paragraph)

  2. And thats an example of “Dystopia” life for the protagonist. An the story of “The Cottagette” is an example of “Utopia” life for the protagonist; Malda because her husband understand and respect her and let her choose her interest and he still love her. He doesnt want her wife to become a kitchen lady while abandon her talent as an artist. “But–how do you want to live?”
    “As we did here–at first,” he said. “There was peace, exquisite
    silence. There was beauty–nothing but beauty. There were the clean
    wood odors and flowers and fragrances and sweet wild wind. And there
    was you–your fair self, always delicately dressed, with white firm
    fingers sure of touch in delicate true work. I loved you then. When
    you took to cooking it jarred on me. I have been a cook, I tell you,
    and I know what it is. I hated it–to see my wood-flower in a kitchen.
    But Lois told me about how you were brought up to it and loved it–and I
    said to myself, ‘I love this woman; I will wait and see if I love her
    even as a cook.’ And I do, Darling: I withdraw the condition. I will
    love you always, even if you insist on being my cook for life!” (Last pg and 2 paragraphs).

  3. I see a lot of similarities between the behavior of Mr. Matthew in “Cottagette” and John’s behavior in “The yellow wall paper”. In both cases they all showed signs of care and concern for their partners. They all did not want to see their women work more than they are supposed to. Most people see what Mr. Matthew did as cool and ok but john as someone who subconsciously wanted to control his wife.
    I wonder how today’s woman will react or behave when her husband asks her to do some kind of exercise or work other that what the doctor has asked her to when she is sick. Much as women want to have equal rights as men they still want to be given special attention. This is exactly what I believe happened in the “yellow wall paper” with Mr. John and his wife. Whatever he did was genuine and pure medical advice. He did what he had to do as a husband to protect his wife and as a doctor to give the best possible advice to his patient after all we know her brother who is also a doctor believed in the same things John believed in.

  4. i also believe that the protagonist in the yellow wall paper is over protected because her husband never lets her do what she really wants. the husband really does treat her like she is his property and that he is the dominant figure in the story. also ther story of the cottegette is an example of the protagonist living in an utopia because she gets to do whatever she wants. Her husband lets her do whatever she wants so this makes her happy.

  5. I don’t know if Ford lets Malda do what she wants–rather, he breaks from a more traditional model to encourage Malda not to give up what she loves to do for his sake. Her art is part of what he loves about her, and he doesn’t want her to sacrifice that just because traditional gender roles place the wife in the kitchen, especially when he can fill that role. @Brendon, do you see a difference between what I’ve written and what you have? I’m also confused, @Emmanuel, what you mean by “special attention.” How is this gendered–that is, how is the treatment she needs based on her gender, as opposed to her health status? I think you’re on to something, that in both “The Cottagette” and “The Yellow Wall-Paper,” the man is in a position of power over the woman–but do they wield that power in the same way? @Yoshiko and @Crystal Lin, what do you think? Anyone else?

    • Nobody likes the real truth. In a say, “when you bring stick before dog, he don’t like at all and when you say the truth humankind don’t like at all”. Even if Mr. Mathew or John keep their becoming wife in the place Utopia, they will plunge into dystopia, into the world of Samsara (in sanskrit never ending cycle). Not every woman but most of them are complicated. It is like a unfixable tangle around her mind. You will never know what to do when she/he is out of mood. She/he will find a petty issue and raise it to the highest mountain on this earth and duplicate it to create many branches in order that the partner will never able to come out of it. I think same goes for man because he is the indicter.

    • Yes, i do see the fact in both stories that man is over power than woman even in today’s society. Man still make the majority of decision where woman only give opinion but thats better than in the past because in the past woman not allow to speak a word to make objection.

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